For the recovering addicts who addressed the Barton County Commission Monday morning, their stories all followed a similar tragic path – starting with addiction in their teens which led to decades of run-ins with law enforcement and the courts.
However, they all spoke of how they found hope and success at Oxford Houses. These are voluntary resident-run homes for those dealing with addiction issues.
“It’s amazing when you go out there and see that many addicts in one room whose lives have been saved by Oxford,” said James Redetzke. “It saved my life three times. I’ve been back in house 13 days now after a relapse in the pandemic. And my guys were reaching out to me when I was struggling.”
Modeski has had substance abuse issues since he was 13 years old. “I’ve just turned 38. Oxford house has given me my family back, it’s brought my kids back in my life,” he said.
“I’ve met some of my best friends in an Oxford house,” he said. “I’ve got supports in my community. I’ve given back to my community. And I couldn’t be more thankful for what the county has done for us as well. And that’s about all I got to say thank you very much.”
The other residents related similar tales. They also noted how the program has given them their lives back, and given them the confidence to get their lives back in order.
A growing need
“It’s hard to believe, over six years ago I was standing here talking to you about wanting to open up an Oxford house,” said Esfeld, who helped bring the program to Great Bend and whose son is a recovering addict. He sat at her side Monday morning.
She saw that those struggling with these demons had nowhere to go. She learned of Oxford Houses and visited them in Wichita and Topeka, and saw first hand their value at helping addicts.
Now, there are four houses, three for men and one for women. The men’s homes are Hope Central, located at 2201 Polk, Oxford House Credence, 1812 Monroe, and Oxford House Barton, 3713 23rd St., and the women’s home Serenity Way, is located at 2815 Broadway.
Each home houses six to 15 residents. In all, there are 40 beds available in Great Bend.
“It went fast but it shows that the need was definitely here,” she said.
The houses are funded by Oxford house, rent from the residents (who have to have jobs) and fundraisers. They also received $10,000 from 100-Plus People Who Care which has been used in part to offer scholarships for residents to stay at the houses.
How it works
“Law enforcement does their job to protect and serve. And we do our job with probation to make corrections to help influence change,” said Amy Boxberger, director of Central Kansas Community Corrections who deals with struggling addicts. “We have always heavily relied on our intervention services and the community. But one thing we didn’t always have is the peer-ran support of Oxford.”
Now, she can tell them that recovery options are available and that recovery doesn’t have to rely on sanctions for bad behavior. “We are actually building and transitioning to a lifestyle that people crave, and sometimes don’t have the skills to do on their own. So I’m really super proud of them and thankful for Oxford for helping us to do our job.”
Boxberger said this is not a court-ordered or mandated program. Those who want to make a life change must take the step on their own.
Oxford House is a concept in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.
In its simplest form, an Oxford House is a democratically run, self-supporting and drug free home. Sure, some of the residents relapse, but there are many successful graduates.
Residents must remain clean and have a job to remain in the houses. They must pay a $150 deposit, and $100 to $110 per month for rent and utilities.
Esfeld said they pray together, learn life skills and hold each other accountable. Each house has a board, made up of residents, that runs the facility and has the authority to evict a resident for not following the rules.
“Statistically, if you stay in your house 18 months you have an 87.9% chance of never reusing,” said Oxford resident Doug Kelly. But, “there’s no set time limit to live in a house and residents can stay as long as they need to.
Started by a group of half-way house residents in Silver Springs, Md., in 1975, Oxford Houses provide transitional living for persons recovering from life-controlling issues or people who just need a little help. Now, there are 100 Oxford Homes in Kansas, 1,200 in the United States and 2,000 worldwide.