Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
By Shelley Grieshop
Halfway house for addicts planned in Celina
Commissioners approve leasing home to local faith-based group
  CELINA - Mercer County officials on Tuesday agreed to lease a home on Mud Pike to a new, grassroots group seeking to provide a transitional facility for recovering addicts.
Bruce Swonger, a member of the Mercer County House of Hope ministry, said the organization will provide temporary "sober living housing" at the county-owned property beginning in August or September. Members of the group are partnering with the Mercer County Drug Court and other organizations, he added.
"We are people in the county who have an interest in helping individuals with substance abuse issues," he said.
Plans for the faith-based House of Hope - led by president and local substance abuse counselor Bobbi Stoner of Celina - began months ago, Swonger said.  
"Pieces of the puzzle are now coming together," he told the newspaper Tuesday.
The home at 4874 Mud Pike initially will be for women only, he explained.
Swonger did not specify how the organization is funded. In an email sent in March to county commissioner Jerry Laffin, Swonger stated "a key factor to success is soliciting annual sponsorships through donors for operating expenses." He noted that other area resource facilities such as CALL Food Pantry of Celina operate successfully in that manner.
Swonger, when asked by the newspaper, did not say how many clients would live at the house, what type of regulations they would be required to follow or how they would be supervised. More information will be released during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the site at 2 p.m. July 17, he said.
A public open house is planned in August after minor modifications and repairs are made to the facility, he added.
Swonger said the idea for the home came from community leaders with a "sincere desire to make a difference and offer hope" to individuals with substance abuse issues and their families.
"The need for a house to help recovering addicts to stay clean is paramount," he said. "It is just another tool in Mercer County's toolbox to work at addressing the drug issue ... a step in giving these people a chance to continue recovery, to get them back on the path of being helpful and productive citizens in the community."
The House of Hope ministry will rent the property from the county for $1 per year and must pay utilities, property taxes and maintenance. The contract with the county is contingent on the organization's obtaining a liability insurance policy, commissioners said.
The five-bedroom home - north of the county home and sheriff's office - previously was owned by the state and formerly housed eight adults with developmental disabilities. In June 2013, the Mercer Residential Services clients moved to a new home on West Wayne Street in Celina.
In November, the Ohio Department of Development sold the 1.308-acre site to the county for $1. Commissioners said no other county agencies expressed interest in using the property.
"They (House of Hope) were the only ones who applied for it," Laffin said Tuesday.
Commissioner Rick Muhlenkamp said leasing the home to the ministry is the county's way of supporting the local battle against drug abuse.
"We feel this is a way to help these people in the community," he said.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey - who continues to search for programs to combat the growing heroin problem in the area - and Stoner opted not to comment for the story. Both noted that all media information about the project will be released by Swonger.
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