Addiction treatment center will be outside city limits

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that the Set Free Alaska addiction treatment center will be located in the Kenai Peninsula Borough about 6 miles outside of Homer City limits off of East End Road. A previous version of this story stated an incorrect location.

Set Free Alaska, a religious nonprofit that runs a state-certified addiction treatment center in the Mat-Su Valley, has found a new location for the facility it’s bringing to the Homer area.

The organization has been working to bring an inpatient addiction treatment center for men to the lower Kenai Peninsula for a few months. It won a $1.5 million grant from the state to make that happen. Set Free Alaska originally sought to renovate part of the building on Pioneer Avenue that houses the Refuge Chapel. The group applied for, and was granted, a conditional use permit to do so.

However, when a local resident gave the city notice that he intended to appeal the Advisory Planning Commission’s decision on the permit, and then submitted an appeal, Set Free Alaska withdrew its application. Executive Director Phillip Licht wrote in a letter to the city that the time delays and contention associated with an appeals process didn’t align with the group’s mission of being a blessing to the community.

On Tuesday, Licht said Set Free Alaska has found a new location for the treatment center and officially made an earnest money agreement with the owner of the building the organization seeks to buy. It’s a residential home a few miles outside of Homer that’s for sale, and Licht said the group hopes to close on the property by the end of July.

“The facility itself is a beautiful home,” he said.

About 6 miles down East End Road, the property has a good amount of green space outside, and enough room inside for Set Free Alaska to keep to its original goal of having a 16-bed capacity. However, Licht said there will probably not be 16 men living there at all times.

Kachemak City does not have a zoning code that requires use permitting the way Homer does. The only permitting Set Free Alaska still needs to follow through with is what is required by the state fire marshal. Licht said the building will be made ADA accessible.

Other than that, Licht said he only anticipates a light remodel to the home before it opens — things like light fixtures and flooring.

Since the property is several miles outside of Homer out East End Road, staff will transport clients to and from town for things like shopping and doctor appointments. Set Free Alaska already has an official vehicle staff use in Homer, and Licht said the organization will probably get another one.

The facility will have 24/7 security measures in place and clients will not be able to leave without supervision at least during the early part of the program. These are things Licht has testified on at multiple city meetings in the past.

The timeline for the center is to finish renovations in time for an October open house, with services officially starting in November, Licht said. While one staff member for the facility is coming down from the Mat-Su, the rest will be hired from the local community, he said.

Set Free Alaska has also decided to allow more than just clients seeking sobriety to enter the center.

“We have decided to accept men with their children,” Licht said. “Which will be the first program in the state (to do that) that we’re aware of.”

Other treatment facilities, sober living homes and domestic violence shelters allow women with children, but Licht said that as far as he knows this will be the first addiction treatment program in Alaska to allow men to bring children with them.

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