Sheila Bennett worries because her 76 year old mother is not comfortable going to the bank on Germantown Ave. anymore. Doreen Martinez needs a good program for her addiction. Two people with legitimate concerns, and in the middle is the Northwestern Human Services’ Germantown Parkside Recovery Program.
Parkside provides outpatient group and individual counseling for up to 110 clients, and medical management, or methadone, for up to 190 clients.
Since the program opened near Market Square, neighbors have become increasingly outraged about the number of people hanging out in the park and sitting on the stoops for hours. Complaints of drug use, public drinking, and vagrancy have gone unaddressed. Lately these neighbors have been demanding action.
“The difference with Parkside is that they did not meet with the neighbors before they opened the facility to discuss community issues,” said long time community activist Sheila Bennett. “We as a community have worked out accommodations with other programs, like Covenant House for homeless kids, before they moved into the area.”
At a third meeting of concerned neighbors Jan. 13, Sheila Bennett stoked a familiar refrain: “The people look zonked out and we don’t know who they are. My mother does not feel safe. There’s no need for people to hang out for five to six hours.”
To her the solution is simple. “The program needs to be better managed with a structure for its clients,” she said.
But client Doreen Martinez sees it differently.
On a cold and wintry morning, a group of clients stood outside Parkside Recovery talking, smoking and drinking coffee. It looked much like the loitering neighbors have complained about. But Doreen explained that they were on a 15 minute break from group. Sure enough, in a few minutes they filed back into the building and the street was empty once again.
“Parkside is a small and caring program that works for me,” Martinez said. “I go to group three times a week, get individual counseling one time a week and get methadone every day. Everyone must attend group or they cannot be in the program and get the methadone.”
Martinez is aware of neighbors’ complaints and she says she understands, but there’s more to it than some of the discussions have implied.
“I can’t blame the neighbors,” she said. “There may be one or two bad apples. But not everyone is loitering or abusing drugs. We come here for relapse prevention programs and to get help with finding a job, going to school, and other life skills.”
Parkside management is responding too. A Community Advisory Committee was formed to develop solutions to the neighbors’ concerns. There are already some suggestions for improving the atmosphere, like creating a coffee house or turning the vacant lot next door into a community garden. Art Fastman, Executive Director of Addiction Services for NHS, wants to establish an earlier closing time at the clinic, and change the entrance to the rear to avoid congregating on Germantown Ave.
But Germantown resident, Greg Paulmier who attended the meeting, thought that everyone should be in the same room talking to each other about the problems and potential solutions. “People who attend these programs have to sit in meetings like this…By being part of the community, we all can become healthier.”
Another meeting is scheduled for February 17 @ 6:30 pm at Impacting Your World Church, 5507 Market Square.