ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Matthew Powers, owner of the first state accredited sober house in Lynn, stands in the second floor living-room of the house.
BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE
LYNN — David Mulligan has been clean and sober for nearly a year.
Mulligan attributes much of his success to the structure at the Chelsea’s House recovery home, something which was hard to come by in similar homes.
“Some houses have structure, some don’t,” he said. “This one has a very structured policy. The guys I’m surrounded by now are clean. Everybody has one goal: to stick with their sobriety.”
The Chelsea’s House recovery program meets the commonwealth’s high standards, according to the state. Monica Bharel, commissioner of the Department of Public Health, toured and presented a certificate to the nonprofit on Friday, and recognized it as the newest certified sober home.
These homes offer transition for recovering addicts who are moving on from a residential recovery setting, before they live independently.
Beginning Sept. 1, only certified homes will be eligible to accept clients from state-funded referrals. These homes, which are certified voluntarily, will be held to standards outlined by the Massachusetts Association for Sober Housing, which enforces measures of quality.
So far, more than 50 homes have been certified in Massachusetts. Chelsea’s House is not the only certified sober home in Lynn. Steps to Solutions on LaGrange Terrace, founded by Peter McCarthy, has also earned the designation. They also operate approved facilities in Dorchester, Fall River, Brockton and Roxbury.
The most significant benefit of a home certification is that it ensures quality services are available for those who need them, and that the homes are being held to the national standard, according to Bharel.
“There is a disparity in services available for individuals with this disease,” she said. “And it is a medical disease.”
Chelsea’s House opened its first home on Strawberry Avenue in 2010 based on the idea that people should come before the money, according to co-founder Stephen Powers, who operates the program with his brother, Matthew Powers.
Matthew, who is in recovery, visited several sober homes that didn’t provide him with the stability he needed. Stephen said it was seeing the poor conditions of these homes that sparked the idea to open a facility that would give addicts a better chance to stay clean.
Matthew said he was clean and sober for six months before the Strawberry Avenue home opened. The brothers funded the project with credit cards and borrowed money that totaled about $160,000, Stephen said.
Today, they operate three homes in Lynn and two in Chelsea that follow specific guidelines, which include clients being neighborly and taking pride in the upkeep of their home.
A client can rent a bed in a single room for $175 per week or a double room for $160 per week.
While some sober homes might try to cram three bunk beds into one room, the Chelsea’s House rooms are either single or double rooms. Each client is provided with a bed and nightstand, which is a far cry from living on the streets or in a jail cell, Matthew said.
“Part of our concept is to give them back their dignity,” Stephen said.
The brothers said if clients are responsible for maintaining his space, they will have a better chance of succeeding when living independently.
“Basically, it all comes down to respect,” Mulligan said. “Respecting other people for the goals they’re trying to reach.”
In other homes, Mulligan said he was faced with added obstacles, including bed bugs and an environment where other clients were still using drugs.
Mulligan said one of the Chelsea’s House policies is for clients to attend three weekly meetings. He said consistency helps them stay on track.
Frank Murray, the Franklin Street house manager, praised the house for its proximity to meetings in the city’s center. House managers, like Murray, have gone through the system and succeeded, and now serve as house leaders.
Murray said he lived in five other sober homes before settling in Lynn. He participated in the city’s drug court program and was sent to Chelsea’s House because it had a good reputation.
“I came as a client and when the other house manager moved on, I was asked to take over,” Murray said. “I make sure it’s a sober environment, make sure it’s clean. The house itself has guidelines. It’s a transition point to put your life back together so I make sure the guys are going in the right direction.”
His leadership in helping others has helped him with his recovery, Murray said.
“You can’t actually move forward in your own life unless you help others,” he said. “I feel like I can help people and I want to help people.”
Murray said in other homes, the owners aren’t as involved with clients. Matthew and Stephen return calls within minutes and care about what they’re doing, he said.
“Having people to talk to, people to care about their well being, that’s a huge part of it,” Murray said. “A lot of times, it comes down to one situation that the person is having.”
Bharel said the tour of the Franklin Street home was her first, and when she walked in, she knew it was a place where individuals could receive high quality care in an environment that is safe and supportive.
“Things are slowly shifting in the right direction,” she said. “People are starting to think about it differently.”
Bridget Turcotte can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.