Almost a year after a transitional housing program by the county jail closed its doors, another will take its place.
The Manchester-based Live Free Structured Sober Living LLC will operate a 20-bed “structured living” facility for men in the building on Marlboro Road (Route 101), Southwestern Community Services, the Keene-based agency that owns the space, announced Friday.
Live Free intends to open the Keene program, which will bear the same name as the Manchester facility, in mid-January, Ryan Gagne, founder and executive director, said.
The program is open to men who have already started their recovery.
Gagne, himself in recovery from drugs and alcohol since 2008, said he has worked in the field for about a decade; he opened the Manchester facility in 2015. The Keene program will be an expansion, and Gagne said he is considering opening a similar program for women, also in the Monadnock Region.
He said he considered Keene because he’d heard through the N.H. Providers Association during the past summer that the Second Chance for Success building had been vacant for some time. The association is a coalition of organizations that promotes drug and alcohol misuse treatment. The building, and Keene — with its vibrant downtown — felt right, Gagne said.
“This was just a no-brainer as far as what the state needs, not just the local community,” he said.
Live Free and Southwestern Community Services finalized an agreement last week, he added.
Live Free in Keene will offer activities that would help men in recovery “get engaged in life as quickly as possible” — find employment and volunteer opportunities, participate in “recovery friendly activities” such as yoga and fishing, and be a part of the community — all for less money than the average sober house, Gagne said.
He said the average sober house charges about $900 a month in rent, but because the structured living facility has more beds, he said, Live Free can charge a lower fee. Tenants will not receive treatment at Live Free, he said, only peer support, but the house will be managed by live-in staff.
Tenants will remain in the home for a period of up to a year, he said, and will submit to random drug tests.
Second Chance offered transitional housing to former male inmates from the Cheshire County Jail.
John A. Manning, Southwestern Community Services’ chief executive officer, said Monday that his organization met with several groups who were interested in the building in the months since Second Chance closed. The agency picked Live Free because the group has sustained a similar facility elsewhere, Manning said.
“He seemed to have, we thought, the best plan and something that made the most sense,” Manning added.
At least two other programs considered the building with its six, two-bedroom apartments. Suzanne and David Boisvert of Winchester wanted to open a facility for people with substance use disorders at the space before looking elsewhere. In addition, Bill and Phyllis Phelps of Marlborough wanted to use the building for a faith-based sober living house for women, but Southwestern Community Services and the couple parted ways in June, and the building remained vacant.
The Boisverts opened a sober home on Water Street in October. The following month, the Phelpses received zoning approval from the city to open a program on Wyman Road.
Live Free’s impending expansion comes as the state grapples with an opioid epidemic. The state forecasts that 437 drug overdose deaths will be tallied in New Hampshire by the end of 2018, which would represent a 10.5 percent drop from last year’s 488. If the projection holds, 2018 would mark the first decrease in fatal overdoses since 2012.
Southwestern, Manning said, is happy to have a tenant that would help offset the costs of maintaining the building by paying rent. The facility, unveiled in 2013, costs more than $1 million to build and costs $40,000 annually to maintain, Manning said in February.
“In our view, the building is being used, providing housing, a place for folks to live,” he said. “ ... There’s a need for sober housing (in the community).”
Gagne said he hopes to open the Keene facility by Jan. 15.
“Could be sooner,” he said. “I like to move quick.”