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Rehab group wants Holland housing limits relaxed | News

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Rehab group wants Holland housing limits relaxed
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HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM) -- From sex offenders to felons with violent convictions, homes housing recovering drug addicts are raising new concerns in several Holland neighborhoods.

The 13 Watchdog Team has learned the organization Building Men For Life is asking the city to waive a new ordinance and let up to 11 men stay in a single home.

But now, some neighbors want the men to go.

WZZM 13 is uncovering information about the men that even city leaders didn't know.

Around several Holland neighborhoods, giving someone a second chance means parents like Tessa Wiley have to take a chance.

"Everyone deserves a second chance," said Wiley, adding she has mixed feelings about the issue. "It's slightly nerve-wracking."

"I just don't like the house there," said Brad Cramer who lives by one of the houses in another neighborhood. "It scares me to death to have my kids go out and play in the neighborhood."

The city recently sent 900 letters to residents in 11 neighborhoods where there are rental homes with men recovering from alcohol and drug addiction.

"Heroin, meth" could be among the substances in the men's past, said Building Men For Life executive director Randy Brouwer. His group is asking the city to waive a recent ordinance that limits the number of non-family members per home to four. Brouwer wants the city to allow up to 11 men per home. "[It] takes away loneliness and isolation issues."

WZZM 13 asked if some of the men have a violent history. "Some of them do," Brouwer said. In fact, Brouwer says they house some sex offenders and even a convicted murderer. He doesn't blame neighbors for their concern, he said. "I would have the same fear in my neighborhood."

WZZM 13 asked if Brouwer was denying there is a legitimate concern in the neighborhood.

"No, and I can't give any guarantees," says Brouwer.

City leaders say they were previously unaware the organization housed violent criminals, until WZZM 13 let them know.

"They did not disclose any criminal activity on their applications to me," said Cindy Osman, assistant director of Holland Community and Neighborhood Services.

However, because people recovering from addiction are considered disabled, they're entitled to certain protections under federal law.

"As long as they are not actively taking drugs or drinking, then they are considered disabled under the federal fair housing guidelines," said Osman.

Building Men For Life has been renting houses for men in recovery since 2010. WZZM 13 talked to one neighbor, a felon himself, who supports the effort. "Homes like these offer parolees something no one else offers," said Damin Allen.

"I'd rather have the guy who is recovering and not using in my neighborhood, than I would the guy that's using down the street," said Brouwer.

Brouwer says some of the men in his program have been through months of treatment, others just 10 days.

Now, neighbors want to make sure that second chance is paying off and not costing them a sense of security.

"I would like more information on what's going on," said Wiley.

Holland police did not have any crime statistics immediately available for the rental properties.

There is a public hearing scheduled on the issue for next Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Holland city hall.


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