Delray, Boynton first in state to set standards for sober homes

Delray Beach and Boynton Beach on Tuesday passed rules that make them the first cities in Florida to force sober homes to meet standards that would protect recovering addicts in order to stay open.

The cities crafted and passed similar regulations that force sober homes to certify with state-designated nonprofit Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR), or prove they meet the business and housing standards set by that organization.

This would allow the cities oversight of hundreds of seemingly unregulated recovery residences, many accused of illegal and unethical practices such as patient brokering.

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“I think (this) is going to create a safer community for the people that need it most, the vulnerable population in recovery that has been exploited … ” Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein said. “And by extension, a safer community for us.”

The sober homes would be held to established guidelines in order to protect residents, said Daniel Lauber, an attorney hired by Delray Beach to study the city and craft regulations. Boynton Beach officials also referenced the study in creating their regulations.

The state of Florida encourages but does not require sober homes to become certified through Boca Raton-based FARR.

Delray Beach’s rule forces sober home operators show proof of certification, or follow the rules outlined by the organization. If the sober home doesn’t comply, the city can shut it down within 60 days.

Enforcing the regulations won’t be easy, said Vice Mayor Jim Chard. Delray Beach will consider hiring more staff to enforce the codes.

“We need some more people to make this work,” Chard said.

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The ordinance also attempts to limit the clustering of sober homes within Delray Beach, a frequent complaint of residents. The number of group homes, which includes sober homes, allowed to open will be limited to one home per 660 feet, or one city block, unless the group home receives an exception from the city.

The limit wouldn’t affect the more than 180 sober homes already operating in Delray Beach. It would, however, prevent clusters of sober homes from forming in the future, and prevent more homes moving into existing clusters, city leaders say.

Boynton Beach is slightly more lenient in its distance requirements.

Sober homes with 14 or fewer residents have to be a minimum of 300 feet away — or the length of about four homes — from another one. Existing sober homes would have to meet the certification requirement, but would be grandfathered in if they don’t meet the distance requirement.

There are an estimated 50 sober homes in Boynton Beach, city officials say.

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