Sober Homes

(WSVN) — It was a weekday morning when we found this woman on the bleachers at a Pompano Beach Park. She wasn’t moving. A lady walking her dog tried to wake the woman by shaking the fence and speaking to her.

A few minutes later the lady left. All this happened as children played nearby.

Kristin Jacobs: Pictures of people laying in the streets, freely exchanging drugs, people drunk, laying around.”

Broward Commissioner Kristin Jacobs says behavior like we saw is happening where sober homes have popped up in South Florida.

No one is sure how many sober homes exist.

They require no license and are not subject to any regulation but Jacobs says she has seen ads from up north enticing addicts to come on down.

Kristin Jacobs: “There were ads encouraging people with addiction problems, whether it’s alcohol or drugs, to come to Florida and stay at these ‘sober houses’.”

Sober homes have become big business.

Operators charge individuals or the government for care and housing. Jacobs says a Canadian company is just one of those seeing the potential for profit.

Kristin Jacobs: “They have bought 49 homes in Pompano alone. Something like 1,500 between Boca and Fort. Lauderdale.”

The commissioner says not all sober homes help residents.

Kristin Jacobs: “They’re not receiving anything when they come to the homes. They’re not getting counseling, there’s no interdiction, there’s nothing. They’re warehousing them.”

It adds up to no good according to Civic activist Ron Boehl.

Ron Boehl: “I’m one of these guys that’ll fight for the underdog.”

The feisty veteran says some neighborhoods have so many sober homes, children no longer play outside.

Ron Boehl: “You got these drunks coming in and out in all hours of the night and the people are actually getting to be afraid because there’s getting to be too many of em.”

This woman is one of those who is afraid of the residents of sober homes in her neighborhood. That’s why she asked that we hide her face.

Neighbor: “It’s depressing. It’s scary. Some of them park in front of my house because they’re not allowed guests. So they have carloads of girls parked in my home.”

Authorities took these pictures of a sober home. 12 to 15 people were reportedly living there, some in closets and a shed.

Commissioner Jacobs compares the sober home explosion to the pill mill epidemic years ago. They too spread like wildfire until the state began regulating them.

Kristin Jacobs: “This is not to say that we shouldn’t have these kinds of facilities. They are necessary but they must be permitted in some sense. That can’t just be allowed without any restrictions or any guiding principals to exist.”

As for the woman on the bleachers, we came back a few hours later to check on her. Sadly, she was in the same place.

Carmel Cafiero: “Are you OK?”

She mumbled that she was OK and that she lived two blocks away.

Carmel Cafiero: “Is there somebody I can call to come get you?”

Woman: “I’m OK.”

Carmel Cafiero: “You don’t look OK.”

In her purse, liquor, although she told me she was not drunk.

No matter the addiction, experts agree those fighting it deserve treatment based on dedication, not dollars.

Carmel Cafiero, 7News.

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