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Potsdam nonprofit pursues halfway house options

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POTSDAM — After being denied the funds it needs to build a halfway house for women in Potsdam, New Hope Transformation House Ministries is considering some less-costly ways to help recovering addicts as the nonprofit group prepares for another round of grant applications next year.

Plans to build a house at 88 Market St. stalled earlier this year when the state Homeless Housing Assistance Program turned down the group’s grant application.

New Hope Transformation House Ministries, created by members of New Hope Community Church, aims to bring a faith-based approach to helping recovering drug addicts in the north country. The group hasn’t given up its hope of building a home for women in need, but for the moment it has turned its attention to more immediate goals.

“In the meantime we’re doing all that we can,” said Carolyn M. White, former director of the chemical dependency unit at Canton-Potsdam Hospital and chairwoman of New Hope Transformation House Ministries.

The nonprofit is looking into the possibility of creating a supportive living program for women who are recovering from drug addiction and have no home to return to. These women would live in apartments rented and maintained by Transformation House Ministries, with regular visits from staff members and help from other local agencies.

The service would be funded by its tenants, almost all of whom would be eligible for temporary assistance benefits through the St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services.

“This would be pretty much self-supporting,” Ms. White said.

On Nov. 16, Transformation House Ministries will hold a daylong workshop at New Hope Community Church. Those with friends and family members suffering from drug or alcohol addiction should attend, Ms. White said.

The workshop will look at the Shalom model of fighting addiction, a faith-based approach with a focus on pursuing “healthy highs.”

Meanwhile, the agency continues to work on its pitch for next year’s round of grant funding to make the halfway house happen.

In the coming weeks, members of the nonprofit will meet with another local agency with a similar mission. Ms. White said she could not disclose the name of the potential collaborators until things were more firmly settled, but said it is a “long-standing” group with a focus on housing and behavioral help.

State workers strongly urged the relatively young Transformation House Ministries to seek the assistance of another, more established group to bring experience and clout to the halfway house project.

“They really strongly advised us to have a cosponsoring agency, someone to kind of mentor us and guide us along,” Ms. White said.

The proposed building would house up to 12 women at a time. Residents, all of whom would have recently completed a rehab program, would learn job skills while living together for six to 12 months.

The plan drew some criticism from those living near the proposed location when it was first proposed last year. Neighbors worried recovering drug addicts living in downtown Potsdam would lead to an increase in crime.

The state’s Homeless Housing Assistance Program will not begin accepting grant applications until April, which means Transformation House Ministries won’t know whether it will receive the money it needs until next summer at the earliest.

It would take about $1.3 million to build the house and get the program running.

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