Pubdate: Sat, 29 Dec 2012
Source: Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA)
Copyright: 2012 Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Note: Rarely prints LTEs from outside circulation area - requires 
'Letter to the Editor' in subject
Author: Bronislaus B. Kush, Telegram & Gazette Staff


WORCESTER - The Worcester Housing Authority - through a pilot program
expected to begin early next year - will ease its rules to allow some
recovering substance abusers with lengthy criminal records to obtain
local public housing.

WHA officials said the program, "New Beginnings," will initially
provide four men working to turn their lives around with a chance at
stable housing.

"Each day, we balance the need to keep our (WHA) communities safe and
secure with the need to give people a second chance," WHA Executive
Director Raymond V. Mariano said.

The program, run by the agency in partnership with Catholic Charities
of Worcester County's Crozier House, will house the men in a
congregate four-bedroom apartment at the WHA's Lafayette Place in the
city's Green Island neighborhood.

Mr. Mariano, saying that there have been no objections to the plan
from current residents of the 66-unit complex at 2 Lafayette St., said
there is a long list of requirements for participation in the program.

Among them:

- - Candidates must demonstrate months of sobriety and be in compliance
with the recovery requirements of Crozier House.

- - Successful candidates will be tested weekly for substance abuse and
must agree to case management oversight by Crozier House staff.

- - Those admitted must be employed or provide volunteer work for a
minimum of 30 hours per week.

- - Those admitted must attend a minimum of four Alcoholics Anonymous or
Narcotics Anonymous meetings weekly.

- - Successful candidates must pay the applicable rent and abide by WHA

Mr. Mariano said the WHA could not implement the program without the
partnership and expertise of the Crozier House.

"We just don't have the ability, expertise or resources to monitor the
candidates," he said.

He added that the program wouldn't be possible without the approval
and "encouragement" of the WHA's board of directors and residents.

According to Raymond L. Delisle, a spokesman for the Diocese of
Worcester, Crozier House, at 10 Hammond St., is an alcohol and drug
rehabilitation center for men. It provides treatment and quarters for
up to 30 people.

Mr. Mariano said he believes that those taking part in the program may
be able to move into a more traditional public housing setting after
one or two years of participation.

Mr. Mariano said an admissions committee made up of WHA officials will
begin interviewing candidates with the hopes of starting the program
next month.

The candidates will be recommended by Crozier House, he

The successful candidates will be continually monitored, and a formal
review will be undertaken six months after the program starts.

Mr. Mariano said he is confident the program will work and is
considering another agency partner to expand New Beginnings.

The WHA's overall admissions' policies are flexible, and potential
resident households are considered, for the most part, on a
case-by-case basis.

People found guilty of violent or sexual crimes are banned from public

The policies do allow for individuals found guilty of some minor
crimes, such as trespassing, to get housing.

However, Mr. Mariano said admissions become problematic for recovered
or recovering alcoholics with more lengthy criminal records.

He said he became aware of the problem last summer when he heard the
appeals of two men in such circumstances whose housing requests were
turned down.

"I thought these guys might have warranted a pass because they were
working hard to turn things around," Mr. Mariano said. "The trick for
us to getting people like this into public housing was to find a
partner who could monitor their lives. We've now found that with
Crozier House." 
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