Four-plex will keep kids with their moms in recovery


By Sue Cody

Women in recovery are about to get more safe and sober housing that lets them be with their children, thanks to an innovative partnership among several agencies.

An Astoria four-plex with 10 bedrooms is being remodeled in the Uniontown neighborhood through the combined efforts of Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare (CBH), Northwest Oregon Housing Authority (NOHA) and Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, Inc. (GOBHI). A December opening is expected.

Recovery Home

“We want to do everything we can to support families staying together in a healthy and safe manner,” says Amy Baker, executive director of CBH. She says many women who have substance use disorders have lost their housing and had their children placed in foster care. After treatment, it is difficult to find affordable housing. Parents and children can remain separated for long periods of time.

“Keeping families together is a great motivator for parents to remain clean and sober,” Baker says. “If you couple that premise by then surrounding families in an environment that supports being in recovery, the likelihood of long-term success increases.”

Housing partnerships

The coast has been hit by a double whammy: unaffordable housing and an opioid crisis.

“When we looked at data around the opioid epidemic, we saw that the coast was very hard hit,” says Karen Wheeler, business development director for GOBHI.

Multiple agencies have stepped in to create a positive environment for women in recovery.

Stable, affordable housing is critical to recovery. Wheeler became aware of available funding from Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Continuum of Care Program that is focused on ending homelessness. State funding was also available.

When she heard of the need for housing behavioral health clients in Clatsop County, she jumped at the chance to find something suitable. Some options fell through, while others required too much maintenance. Still, GOBHI received a HUD grant for housing.

Clatsop County Manager Cameron Moore mentioned a four-plex that was in foreclosure, and the Clatsop County Commission donated the building to GOBHI. Local contractor Randy Stemper was hired to remodel the four-plex, which needs a lot of work.

“Randy believes in our mission and Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare,” Wheeler says. “He intuitively knows the population we serve, and thinks of the little details, such as the need for bathtubs in each unit.”

Sitting high on a hill overlooking the new Youngs Bay Bridge, each apartment has a river or bay view from large new windows.

Recovery Home 4

“This is a place to heal the mind,” says Wheeler, while looking out at the view on a tour of the four-plex.

“We have a lot of support. Almost everyone has said yes to our requests,” Wheeler says, “though we may seek new partners to make sure babies and kids have furniture, clothing, books and toys.”

Because some of the funding came from HUD, NOHA is able to provide residents with vouchers for housing, and will act as landlord. Residents who have jobs may pay no more than 30 percent of their income for rent.

Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization (CPCCO) and others have provided some gap funding. The Way to Wellville and its sponsor, the CPCCO, encourage healthy environments and lifestyles.

“One organization can’t do everything, especially in small communities,” says Baker. “CBH is excited to be in the position of not having to attend to property management, collecting rent and other duties related to being a landlord.”

Whole system of services

There will be an emphasis on early childhood bonding and education opportunities for the kids. The Department of Human Services, The Harbor, the Early Learning Hub will all offer education and support for the families.

“We want women to focus on recovery and being a good parent,” Wheeler says.

Women who qualify for this housing will not be fresh out of rehab. They will be women who have been through treatment and had a period of recovery and are in need of housing to stay with their children. They may stay up to two years.

“We want to create a culture of progress,” says Wheeler. “We want women to think about their next permanent residence.”