Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 900-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 30th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Leaving Las Vegas

Probably by the end of this year TLC will no longer have a presence in Las Vegas. And it's not due to lack of motivation on our part. It's just that the state of Nevada has such strict rules for halfway houses and recovery programs that it's impossible to break even.

At one time, back in the 90s, TLC had 220 beds in the city of Las Vegas. We had a wonderful group of managers. We had a lot of motivated alcoholics and drug addicts, men who wanted to change their lives.

When a member of my staff and I went to Las Vegas in the mid-90s because we had heard that there were a lot of homeless addicts and alcoholics we were appalled at what we saw. North of the old part of town there were blocks covered with homeless people living in makeshift camps on the sidewalks, defecating and urinating wherever they could find a place to relieve themselves. Looking back, it seemed like there were at least 1500 people living on the streets in that area. And when we saw that we realized that we had to do something about it. And we did.

We found a dilapidated four – plex on 10th St. near the old part of Las Vegas that the owner leased to us for a reasonable price. She probably did it because it would've cost too much for her to repair and rent to ordinary people who were looking for a decent place to live. We started repairing and painting the units and in a matter of months we were full. And we had to start looking for other properties.

The only area we could locate, near Fremont Street, was infested with addicts, ex-convicts, prostitutes – members of our society who had fallen through the safety net and had no insurance or other resources to help themselves. And that's where we came in and began cleaning up the area bit by bit.

But government, as it usually does, started interfering with our business. And they didn't interfere in a positive way. They started passing more rules and regulations on recovery programs and halfway houses – as if they were concerned about the welfare of addicts and alcoholics. To those of us who were in the business it seemed like they wanted to put so many rules on us that we wouldn't be able to operate. They cloaked all of their new rules and regulations in language that made it look like they were concerned about the welfare of addicts and alcoholics. But they didn't have any concern about addicts and alcoholics, because they didn't put up any money or resources to help them. The only thing they put up were barriers to those of us who were to trying to help addicts and alcoholics change their lives.

We were one of the few programs in the area that would allow addicts and alcoholics to come into the program, whether they had money or not. As we do in Arizona, we would let them come into our program and if they couldn't find work outside in the community we would allow them to do volunteer work inside the program. Many of these men had never held a real job. Many had tattoos on their faces. Many of them had AIDS or other diseases that prevented them from doing a real day's work out in the community. So we would find something simple for them to do such as answer telephones, maintain the landscaping, perform janitorial services; some kind of busy work that allowed them to build up their self-esteem until they could get the confidence to go out and find a job that paid them more than the stipend that we granted them.

But now the owner of the building has found a buyer and he's ready for us to move on. He's been a wonderful landlord and even cut our rent to $2500 a month three or four years back. But even at that rate we were losing five to $6000 a year for the past five years. The only reason we didn't pull out much earlier is because many of the addicts were older and had serious illnesses, and didn't have the resources to move elsewhere. We offered to let them come to Arizona, but most of them now have found other accommodation that will allow them to stay near their friends and medical resources in Las Vegas.

Under the circumstances I believe we did our best to help as many people as we could for as long as we could.

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