Sober Living

The Dorchester Reporter just posted the first part of an expose of an investigation into sober living homes in Massachusetts. It’s a follow-up of a report by the Boston Herald, inspired by a couple of fatal overdoses in a single Roxbury sober living house, and a subsequent attempt to enact some oversight.

Special Report: At “sober homes” issues of safety inside, safeguards outside

Three years later, little has changed. None of the proposed rules and standards meant to ensure safe living conditions inside the homes have been enacted, nor have any safeguards been put in place for neighbors concerned about the operation of these homes. In fact, an investigation by the Dorchester Reporter has found, no one inside Boston City Hall or the State House can state with accuracy how many sober homes exist in the city or how many people live in them.

The article details the way in which sober living is, primarily, a racket — which is no surprise: People open these homes, using money granted by the government for non-profit businesses. This is not money specifically for sober living houses in particular, money that might be tied to standards and oversight. So, they pack people in, without regard for their stability or commitment to sobriety, and, as the article says, the state can’t step in until something goes wrong. Otherwise, the best they can do is bust these people for violating zoning laws, by converting single family dwellings into dorms. And in the meantime, the owners of these cesspools make tens of thousands in rent.

The article quotes a guy named Charlie Yetman, who runs a few sober living homes in MA. Apparently, he founded something called MASH (Massachusetts Association of Sober Homes), which I cannot find anywhere online, for some reason. I have a feeling that the article might have confused the Minnesota Association of Sober Homes with Yetman’s organization, but I still cannot find anything resembling a set of guidelines or an association in MA. So, supposedly, his organization seeks to provide standards and accreditation, which sober living owners can adopt voluntarily. And I found his reasons for self-imposed guidelines interesting:

In an interview, Yetman said that a code of ethics is needed to make certain that unscrupulous landlords don’t take advantage of recovering substance abusers by packing them into one unit and charging them exorbitant rent. If the owners do not adopt the reforms voluntarily, Yetman said he feared the state will impose more restrictive regulations that would do more harm than good.

“You have to understand that sober homes are the last step in the continuum of care before someone chooses to live alone again,” Yetman said. “Think of these homes as a place to practice living sober.”

I wonder what potential state-imposed restrictions he is worried about?

David "Tony Robbins" Perry, left

DOT follows up on David Perry, the guy who owned the Roxbury sober living houses where the fatal overdoses too place, and on the lawsuit that the state filed against him for violating zoning laws (because what else could they hold him responsible for?). His lawyer is fighting this on the grounds that the state is discriminating against addicts.

The operator of one of the largest ‘sober housing’ organizations in the Commonwealth has filed a civil lawsuit against Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, State Senator Diane Wilkerson, the Boston Herald, the City of Boston and its Inspectional Services Department (ISD).

The lawsuit, filed in the Boston Housing Court on April 20, 2007, asserts Safe Haven’s right under law to operate its sober houses free from the harassment and discriminatory scrutiny of the City of Boston and its Inspectional Services Department.

In the ‘Verified Complaint’ Safe Haven’s Executive Director David Perry claims that he was personally defamed at public hearings and in the media by State Senator Diane Wilkerson and City Councilor Chuck Turner and that his reputation has been intentionally and maliciously smeared through the concerted efforts of all the defendants named. Perry claims that his business has been adversely affected as a direct result of the inaccurate and irresponsible attacks launched by the defendants.

[...]

Through their Complaint, Safe Haven and Perry seek to establish:

(1) that sober houses require no permit from the City of Boston, citing the Fair Housing Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Massachusetts Zoning Act as their authorities;

(2) Safe Haven’s right to operate without constant harassment and scrutiny from the City of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department;

(3) the prevention of further interference with the business relationship…

Perry is still very much in the business, and running something called “Recovery Educational Services,” which is just another sober living outfit, with a bow on top.

Anyway, before I just re-write the whole article, you can go read it here.

  • AnnaZed

    Humm, Charlie Yetman sees like an interesting AA character, can someone tell me what those strings of acronyms mean exactly?:

    Charles Yetman, CCS, CADAC II, CCJS, CDVC, MAC

    Clinical Supervisor

    Specialties: Direct sober houses for men and women, trainer and educator at state prisons, colleges, and numerous forums.

    Phone: 617-524-5967

    FAX: 617-983-2148

    cyetman@aol.com

    Maybe he is really talking about this organization?

    http://recoveryhomescollaborative.com/index.html

    Perhaps he wants to maintain anonymity for the organization given that it seems hard even for the dyslexic in me to confuse RHC and MASH.

    He is reachable here by email as an officer of an organization offering Sober Living accommodation for women (wtf?) ~ scroll down to Valentine House:

    http://recoveryhomescollaborative.com/index.html

    Here we have the proud Trade School graduate and apparently “Program Director” for The Boston Public Health Commission leaning on his hog on facebook:

    http://www.facebook.com/charlie.yetman

    Interestingly, he’s not listed on the actual Boston Public Health Commission site as being a program director:

    http://www.bphc.org/programs/aptrss/Pages/Home.as

    but that’s probably just more of the old AA rigorous honesty™ combined with AA attraction not promotion™.

    On Linken In he claims that title as well:

    http://www.linkedin.com/pub/charles-yetman/14/304

    so maybe they just don’t list him on the website, who knows.

    Given that he posts his telephone number all over the net we could just call him, but I wouldn’t do that. Probably what one would find would be a friendly, self-satisfied very pure old-school doctrinaire AA who does not think of himself as a scamming parasite at all.

    Given that he graduated from trade school in 1963 and claims to be in his “second decade” of recovery here:

    http://www.recoverymonth.gov/Voices-for-Recovery/

    One can presume as many as 19 years working as a paid recovery professional or as few as 9. Also one wonders what he was up to for the intervening 27 to 37 years. It certainly wasn’t pursuing continued education that’s for sure. So, what makes this guy qualified to serve the City of Boston Public Health Commission I wonder.

    • MA

      So, what makes this guy qualified to serve the City of Boston Public Health Commission I wonder.

      A pulse and a resentment.

  • DeConstructor

    What I cannot understand is why a health insurance company would pay for ANYTHING that is claimed by ANY entitiy in the recovery industry.

    Considering the hoops that have to be jumped through to get them to pay something as simple as a dental claim (and I have one of those "Cadillac" plans) I cannot imagine that the insurance companies would continue to pay for the "white light" experience that is the "miracle"

    This dude is a poster boy for the non qualifications of the recovery industry.

    It is the blind leading the deaf, being directed by the retarded.

  • humanspirit

    @AnnaZed

    "Charles Yetman, CCS, CADAC II, CCJS, CDVC, MAC"

    Yes, what do all these letters mean? I tried to look up on the internet a whole similar bunch of letters after 'addiction counsellors' ' names and could not find what these 'qualifications' were at all. I found one online course that people could pay £75 for (about $100) which gave the the right to some kind of letters after their names apparently . . .

  • ez

    CADAC Certified Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor, no idea about the 'II' thing…second class?

    after that it becomes a pcik and choose type thing, my choices below

    CDVC Community Development Venture Capital

    CCS Commercial Crime Services

    MAC Mothers Against Circumcision

    CCJS Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies

  • Bringing them down

    Have you come across any sources that detail exactly what sorts of funding or subsidy Safe Haven has received or is receiving?

    That information would be really helpful for some research I'm doing.

  • http://www.stinkin-thinkin.com friendthegirl

    BTD, I haven't done any research into this… but the article I posted points out that these people receive general government grants for non-profit businesses — money that any non-profit can request, do spend as they see fit. There's no oversight there, especially not for sober living establishments.

    I noticed that Perry's new outfit requests donations.

    Then again, if Safe Haven could cobble together a down payment on a single family house, and convert it into a sober living house, pack 10 people in there, all paying $150 a week — that's $6,000 a month — plus donations and government grants — for what? Say the mortgage payment is $1000/mo and utilities are 250/mo (generous?) — and say they have 5 houses, and they hire 3 people to make the rounds, drive the vans, etc. at some shitty salary of $320 a week… (or maybe they offer room and board in exchange?) well, they're bringing in almost $20,000 a month (not counting whatever donations and grants they receive). That's a very good living for Mr. Perry and his partner.

    They can do this, because they have absolutely no standards to maintain. When they get busted, the only actionable violations are zoning laws.

    Of course, that's all based on my understanding of how this might work. So, please let us know what you find out when you're done with your research.

  • Matthew Turner

    CCS-Certified Clinical Supervisor CADAC II-Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor CCJS-Certified Criminal Justice Specialist CDVC-Certified Domestic Violence Specialist MAC-Masters in Alcohol Counseling Charlie is a great guy and a wonderful teacher!

  • Suzanne

    funny I found a link to MASH!!! mashsoberhousing.org

  • anonymous

    I have lived in the minnesota sober housing system twice and the biggest problem is lack of oversight of housing managers. Some of them are totally nuts, abusive, etc. The stories I could tell.

  • AnnaZed

    Oh by all means, do tell.

  • anonymous

    Well my first house manager didn’t got to AA at all and kind of hid this fact to his boss, and was really into joining the Masons and spent all of his time reading conspiracy theory books. Nice guy tho. The second house manager of mine was just an abusive dude who screamed at you all day. Finally 4 months into AA I met a woman who was a sober house manager of a woman’s house, who turned out to have NPD, was into hitting me and all kinds of crazy abuse stuff, a thief, and a gambling addict who lost about $6,000 bucks of mine playing slot machines with my credit card.

  • Ted

    Charlie Yetman underscores the DIRE need for regulation of these sober homes. Certain people named in the post are profiting from the exploitation of people seeking long term recovery, and that is pretty f#*%ing sick. At the very least they are an embarrassment to the recovery community working in the Boston area – at their worst, a haven for those actively using and a potential death sentence.

    Perry is a dirt bag, and he will eventually get his just deserts. I just hope the damage he does before then doesn’t get much worse than it already is.

  • Charles Yetman

    Contempt prior to investigation never paid any great dividends.
    We try to help people in a way we were helped. I believe I could never pay that debt in full, however, I will continue to try. There are some very sincere people who have dedicated their lives to help others…I am privileged to know a great deal of them.

  • http://anonymousjr.keepandshare.com JR Harris

    We are investigating and reporting it so people can make up their own minds. Please take what you want and leave the rest while you are looking for the similarities and not the differences.

  • SoberPJ

    Just another example of how the cult has members in government. Program Director of Boston Public Health. I wonder how much money SMART of WFS or SOS gets from Boston Public Health?

  • Ben Franklin

    CY: “We try to help people in a way we were helped.”
    And I am sure your helping yourself in the process with a load of cash.

  • Mark A.

    I’m relieved to know that two career politicians, with highly suspect moral and ethical back rounds, such as Mr. Turner, and Ms. Wilkerson are looking into this!!! As someone who has struggled with alcoholism and addiction for many years, and who has been sober and in recovery for the last seven, I know first hand the difficulties and struggles of early sobriety. Like many people with this affliction, it wasn’t until I was completely destitute and contemplating suicide, that I was finally able to get the courage and willingness to follow those who had success in arresting this disease. Thank God there were places like Safe Haven to turn, when not even my family would have me!! Through the grace of God, and the help of Mr. Perry and many like him, I was able to re-create my life, support my son, get married and enjoy many promotions from my employer of the last 7 years. Unfortunately, this system is an imperfect one, and relapse happens whether it’s @ Safe Haven, or some back alley, it’s an unfortunate reality, and a perfect example of how dire this epidemic has become! How many more overdoses happened in the city of Boston during that same time frame? That’s the number you should fear and be morally outraged by. A.A. was founded by two Alcoholics. One alcoholic helping another and the adherence to the twelve steps, not Dr. & professionals with lots of letters after their name. I can say with absolute certainty, that Mr. Perry’s motives are not financial!! That I’m sure of…Forgive them God, they know not what they do.

  • SoberPJ

    Normally when an AA reformed drunk comes by here, it ends with something bossy, like “go shit in a hat”. This one invoked some jebus remark as a put down. Interesting, but still all about ego and superiority… but very humble, I’m sure.

  • http://anonymousjr.keepandshare.com JR Harris

    I’m relieved to know that two career unemployable Alcoholics, with highly suspect moral and ethical back rounds, such as Mr. William Griffith Wilson, and Dr. Robert Smith are looking into this!!!

    (snip}

    “Like many people with this affliction, it wasn’t until I entered the hallowed halls of Alcoholics Anonymous and was made completely destitute and contemplating suicide because they told my friends and family I had an incurable disease and they should dis-associate from me, that I was finally able to chant Bill Wilson in Church Basements and get the courage and willingness to fall for the rhetoric of delusional Bill Wilson followers, did they stop undermining my character and turning my friends and family against me. Thank God that I started to chant Bill Wilson and members of the fellowship stopped trying to make me hit bottom.

  • Amy

    AA was founded by Bill Wilson and DOCTOR BOB.

    Forgive them God, for there self righteousness, they know not what they do.

  • Alex

    Stayed there for 6 month never been sober, failed drug tests, just like many people there, still they didnt kick me out till I left my self. Got an apartment and I am so much better now. All couse the owner is gay and he thought I will have sex with him so he let me slide with a lot of things. That is some help alright, especialy for $165 a week, cramed with 3 to 4 people per room that always still from you. Safeheaven alright

  • me

    Who thinks that having 4 people in one basement with one door and one window is safe?

  • zack

    I lived at res for almost a year in my whole experience there it was the worst dirtiest foul place I have ever lived at Dave Perry is a fucking crook he will take sex in exchange for his outrageous rent 160 a week to share a small room with 4 people in which your stuff grts stolen all the time even staff steals from you also staff is using drugs artie is a staff member who is a sex offender who is registered in Worcester but not in Roxbury every house is infested with bedbugs Dave Perry is aware but does nothing about it he could care less all he wants is money he now has people living in laundry rooms on couches and still charges 160 a week he is a fake crack smoking scumbag who is a disgrace I want to bring him down

    • massive

      zack- exchanging sex for rent. DId you call the police on him. Sounds like a guy who needs to be called out for his wrongdoing.

  • Ldavio69

    I want to say if it wasn’t for Dave perry and RES I wouldn’t still be sober today David Perry is a life savior yes I did see people come and go but that’s because they didn’t want to stay sober I would do anything to help Dave Perry And RES any way I can even if it means giving him my SSI. My name is Leslie Davio

  • David

    i am at res now to everyone that is hating on the place its probably because you got kicked out for failing to many piss test yes David works with you he was in our shoes before. I have watched him put many people out if they did not go to detox! It is what you make of it you want the help its there.David goes out his way to help people drives them to Dr. app detox housing it really is all up to you to live sober not David thanks David dmk

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