By Tim Pallesen
Two state lawmakers have proposed legislation to require the licensing of sober houses.
Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, and Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, also want criminal background checks on the owners and operators of sober houses.
“We have way too many problems reported by local officials about some of the sober houses to permit them to continue to operate without regulation,” Hager said.
Delray Beach, known as the major recovery center for drug addicts and alcoholics from the Northeast, has an estimated 550 sober houses, according city rental housing inspector Marc Woods.
But federal privacy laws under the Americans with Disabilities Act prevent cities from knowing exactly how many sober houses they have and the impact they create on city services.
Delray has a city law that requires the owners of rental homes to make a Reasonable Accommodation Request to allow more unrelated tenants than normally allowed in a house.
But only about half of the estimated 550 sober houses have complied. Those not in city records are the ones creating calls for drug overdoses and suicide attempts that require a response by police and fire-rescue paramedics, Woods said.
The most significant impact for the community occurs when drug addicts relapse while at sober houses and are evicted onto the streets. “Relapses and desperate people are problems for the community,” Woods said.
Delray police estimate that 56 percent of all property crimes in the city are committed by people coming to the city for recovery.
The proposed state legislation would require sober house operators to provide 48 hours notice before evictions to prevent homelessness and crime.
The state law would allow inspections by the Department of Children and Families, but it doesn’t provide funding for enforcement.