Pastor withdraws application



Despite deciding to withdraw his variance application, Jerry Roberts is determined to find the right location to minister to people trying to overcome substance abuse addictions.

The pastor of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Medora and Vallonia United Methodist Church in Vallonia purchased a home at 480 S. Valley Drive in the Wayman addition on Brownstown’s south side in hopes of starting House of Hope Cycle-Breaking Methodist Ministry.

Most of the residents of the neighborhood, however, had issues with a drug rehabilitation home being considered for that area. Many put signs in their yard expressing they were against it, and 78 of them signed a petition.

Nearly 60 people filled Brownstown Town Hall on Monday night for a public hearing during a Brownstown Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.

“Most of the people we have discussed this ministry with think there is a need for this ministry in this community as long as it’s not in (their) neighborhood,” Roberts said. “I can understand that. That’s just the way life is. We can sympathize with their feelings, and we appreciate the kind discussions we have had with most of the people concerning our ministry and concerning the drug situation in Brownstown.”

He then announced his plans to withdraw the application for a development standards variance, the purpose of which is to vary from land use.

“We do not want anyone to feel that we’re trying to force our ministry on them or create fear in their lives,” he said. “We are a house of hope, we are not a house of fear, and we would hope that everybody would remember that.”

According to town ordinance, downtown business, highway business and industrial zoning districts allow social services institutions. The home on Valley Drive currently is zoned residential.

“We challenge you to provide a facility to house our ministry that would be an acceptable location for each and every one of you,” Roberts said to those attending Monday’s meeting.

“We would like you to not only support our ministry but be a part of it,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to give up on this ministry, and I know the opioid addiction situation is not going to go away if we just ignore it. We ask you to be a part of our ministry or to start your own ministry, start your own program to address this situation.”

Since the home won’t be used for its intended purpose, Roberts said he would be selling it. He purchased the 0.23-acre lot on a sheriff’s sale in September 2017.

“We don’t know where God is going to lead us with this ministry, but we know that the drug problem in this town is not going to go away on its own,” Roberts said.

The decision to start the ministry came after two young people associated with families of the congregations died of drug overdoses in the past three years. Plus, two others were arrested and incarcerated for drug violations, and other people in Jackson County have overdosed on heroin.

Roberts particularly was affected by the overdose death of a teenager.

“I don’t know how it affected you, but that really shook me up,” he said. “I don’t know how you reacted, but I’ll tell you what I did. I got down on my hands and knees and asked for forgiveness from God for my indifference and my complacency about the drug situation in this community.

“We’ve had enough discussion. We’ve had finger pointing. It’s time to take action. It’s time to do something as a community,” he said. “That’s when our churches decided that we weren’t going to procrastinate. We were going to do something rather than just sit around and talk about it.”

In a year’s time, Roberts said nearly $100,000 was spent developing the ministry. It was modeled after Trinity Life Ministry in Crawfordsville, which has been treating addiction since 1982.

Roberts planned to use the Heart of Addiction curriculum focused on “the transformation of the life of the individual through the power and grace of Jesus Christ, not just curing their drug addiction,” he said.

Trinity Life Ministry is experiencing 75 percent success in transforming their residents into productive drug-free citizens, Roberts said.

Housed in an old county farmhouse, the ministry leases the building from the county for $1 year, and it’s in a residential section on three sides, he said. To get it started, the community came together to raise more than $600,000. It now houses 65 residents at a time.

With House of Hope, Roberts wants to serve up to four men after going through an application and interview process, and a resident supervisor would live in the house seven days a week.

While the program is a yearlong process, the men would only be housed for two months.

Those leading the program would help the men find employment. The residents would be provided transportation to and from work, classes and church and would be escorted to all functions outside the house.

Residents would be required to attend a church assigned to them, and they would be allowed to visit with family 15 minutes before and after the service. No other contact with family or friends would be permitted through the week or the first 60 days.

All residents also would be tested for drugs when arriving and be tested weekly. A positive test would result in removal from the program.

Other rules would include a 9 p.m. curfew, no visitors except members of the assigned mentor groups, no personal vehicle during the first 60 days, no fraternization with any woman in any capacity and no personal electronic devices for the first 60 days except for wrist watches.

The program’s orientation guide includes more than 30 other policies, rules and guidelines that residents would have to obey to remain in the program, Roberts said. All of the guides he took to Monday’s meeting were taken home by people.

He thanked everyone for their attention.

“Thank you for being concerned citizens, and God bless each and every one of you,” Roberts said, drawing applause.

Steve Glasgow, who lives in the Wayman addition, commended Roberts for trying to help people overcome addictions and said he would like to see churches assisting with the effort, but he just wasn’t in favor of it being in his neighborhood.

Derrick Pogue and his father-in-law, Mike Shoemaker, who live across the street from where Roberts planned to house the ministry, were OK with the proposal.

“The restrictions they were going to have on these rehabilitating individuals, they would be confined to the house with supervision at all times,” Pogue said.

“As people are leaving jail, they are going somewhere in your community,” Shoemaker said. “Give them a shot at being supervised and getting the right to have a normal life like the rest of us. Nobody ever took a pill or smoked a drug thinking, ‘I hope I can screw up my whole life.’ They did it because it’s a cry for help. They need help. They are in pain, whether it’s physical or emotional, so they need somewhere to get that help.”

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