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Opinion: Stand up for recovery center in Lakeview

If you were walking through Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood about a month ago, you would have seen disgraceful signs blanketing the community with fear-mongering messages such as, “If Rosecrance’s proposal goes through you may have a heroin addict sitting here.”

The signs were posted by opponents of the proposed Rosecrance Lakeview, much-needed drug- and alcohol-free housing for young people in recovery from substance abuse.

OPINION

It didn’t take long before hundreds of Lakeview residents, including college students, parents, worshiping communities, business owners and organizations voiced their shock and disappointment about the signs and their support for the recovery home. Overnight, community members replaced the hateful signs with those that read, “You could have a HUMAN BEING sitting here.” In fact, the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors recently declared it unanimously supports Rosecrance Lakeview.

This issue is bigger than Lakeview; it impacts all Chicago. People in recovery are protected under fair housing laws — this is a civil rights issue. If the signs said “a person with HIV AIDS” would be sitting here or “an African-American” would be sitting here, it would become a national issue.

It is also very personal for us. We are both individuals living in recovery and we know that the prevalence of addiction is so great that most families are touched by it. This disease is actually more prevalent than cancer, affecting more than 85 million Americans. With treatment and ongoing support, they are managing it successfully and leading healthy, productive lives.  Unfortunately, only about 11 percent of people who need help are getting it.

Lakeview residents are not only voicing their support for diversity and inclusion, they are voicing support for Rosecrance, a nationally recognized behavioral health care provider with a 100-year history of operating safe, effective programs in the Illinois.

This has become more than a neighborhood zoning issue.  It’s a civil rights issue.  This is discrimination pure and simple. Opponents’ views can be summed up in questions asked by neighbors at the first community meeting: “Why would you come where no one wants you?”

Lakeview prides itself on being an inclusionary, diverse community. The “not-in-my-backyard” or NIMBY opposition is a disservice to not only Lakeview, but to all of Chicago.

On Friday morning, the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals will hear this case. We hope the board will do the right thing and grant Rosecrance a permit to develop a home for young people who are committed to recovery.  It would be a shame to allow a group of NIMBY opponents to deprive the citizens of Chicago of a much-needed resource by a quality nonprofit organization – especially as our city faces a heroin epidemic.

Kelly O’Brien is Illinois executive director of The Kennedy Forum. Marca Bristo is president and CEO of Access Living.

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