Program chair Patty Meritt introduced Sunriser Rotarian Terri Babers on her involvement with the "Oxford House" project. Terri recently became a landlord with unintended consequences.  Her first renter, a single mother with several children,  unsettled the quiet, historic neighborhood.  Multiple visitors would appear late at night in cars with loud, thumping audio systems, her children would be outdoors playing late at night, the police would often appear.  Terri heard complaints from the neighbors about her tenants.

Recognizing that her house was being used as more than a residence, Terri went through the lengthy 2 ½ month process to evict her tenant, discovering that in addition to drug sales there, the house had also been trashed by the family and pit bulls.

Previously in 1975 on Oxford Street in Silver Springs, MD, a congregate housing concept developed for recovering substance abusers.  Diverse recovering individuals found shelter at "Oxford House" where they lived by three rules: NO drugs or alcohol; NO disruptive behavior; rent paid ON TIME.  The residence would become self-supporting and organized through weekly house meetings when residents determined chores. This "Oxford House" concept has spread and includes multiple residences in Anchorage.

Terri then introduced Rick Maxim who has worked with "Oxford Houses" for 12 years, including Anchorage and now manages the Fairbanks facility.  With the assistance of numerous local individuals, organizations, and businesses, including the neighborhood crime prevention/public education "Weed and Seed" program, Terri, Rick, and volunteers cleaned up her wrecked rental and turned it into Fairbanks' first "Oxford House." Businesses donated raw materials, and many, many organization and volunteers dry walled, painted, etc. Downtown Rotary contributed $350 for beds.  This Saturday, four women are moving into Alaska's latest "Oxford House".

The residents are referred by agencies and groups such as the Ak Dept. of Corrections and the Ralph Perdue Center.  The "Oxford House" residents assist in the selection of new occupants, and although there is no time limit on length of stay, there is a three month minimum.  Besides the weekly occupants' meeting, most residents receive specialized counseling outside the house.  The "Oxford Houses" are gender separate with women accommodating children under 8 years old.  Many of the women later become managers of other "Oxford Houses".

The average rent in the Fairbanks unit is $500 for a private room, and $450-470 for a larger shared room.  The rent includes group consumables; individuals purchase and prepare their own food.  New residents are sometimes provided financial assistance from sources like "Partners for Progress" to enter the program; in addition to stipends, bus tokens food debit cards, etc., are also provided.

Rick Maxim indicates there are 18 local individuals awaiting "Oxford House" accommodations.  National information can be found at: Rick and Terri demonstrated the journey from rental, to wreck, to recovery for landlord and tenants in the dedication of an "Oxford House" in our community.