On Jan. 30, we attended a meeting at the Mokelumne Hill Community Church in Mokelumne Hill, where we were informed of plans under way to establish a private, faith-based home for recovering drug and alcohol addicted women on Main Street in our town. The advance notice, by the organizers of this meeting was a flyer distributed at our local post office. There was no communitywide notification to the people and families that would be impacted by this center.

At the meeting, we were informed that in coordination with the Mokelumne Hill Community Church, a residence and adjoining office had been donated to the Faith Home Network Adult and Teen Challenge (FHTC.life) by a private individual for use in this program. The house is on Main Street, off the road, but one block from the hotel and central downtown area. It is surrounded by private residences, including seniors and families with children.

Architects have already been brought in to start drawing up plans to remodel the house before the community was notified of what was happening, and before giving us the opportunity to have a conversation about the impact of the center.

We attended this meeting with pressing questions about how this center would potentially reshape our town. After listening to five speeches, including two wonderful success stories from the program, we were given a chance to ask questions.

We feel that our questions were not answered at all and in many cases were not even addressed. In some cases, we were treated as adversaries of the project. People who had been brought in from other towns and counties to support the project (not stakeholders in our town) loudly applauded to statements contradicting us. Three people raised their voices to those of us in the audience with questions. Twice denigrating remarks were made about our town, painting Mokelumne Hill as a type of “drug den” instead of the vibrant, diverse, tolerant, artistic and tightly knit community it is.

We have invited the leaders of this effort to attend a second, moderated public forum, and they have agreed. The next meeting will be held on Sunday, Feb. 9, at 5 p.m., in the Mokelumne Hill Town Hall.

Our concerns are primarily in the following areas. These can be read in more detail at mokehill.org/2020/02/agenda-of-sunday-night-meeting/

1. How the security of these women can be ensured in a town which has virtually no law enforcement resources and no medical facility in case of emergency

2. What training the staff will receive in handling difficult situations. Will they be trained by law enforcement, for example, on what to do in a potentially violent situation? Will they receive training as social workers? This question was asked repeatedly and not answered.

3. If a woman decides not to comply with the program, and she cannot use drugs in the house, she would certainly attempt to leave the house to do this. There are three locations very near this proposed center that would present opportunities for her to do this without being detected. One of these is our community park, which is frequented by children, used for community events, etc.

4. The proposed location faces a street that has been used in the recent past for illicit drug sales and use, making an extremely inappropriate location for women trying to climb out of drug use and establish new lives for themselves.

We invite those interested to attend, and if you would like, to submit questions or comments beforehand, to info@acmeartmokehill.com.

We believe this meeting will be an important next step in ensuring that the local community is acknowledged and participates in decisions that have such lasting impact on the character and safety of our town.

There is not one among us who does not support women facing and dealing with the demons of drug addiction and making a better life for themselves. But while the program’s successes promise to be a very positive action for women who have benefited from it, to pretend that programs such as these will not also have failures is to ignore the reality of drug rehabilitation. And those failures could be disastrous for our small community as well as for the women participating.

We would be very supportive of this donated property being used to benefit the community with programs that do not contain the above liabilities, such as a learning center for young children. We would be very willing to support efforts and as possible to assist in finding another location for the FHTC program in the tri-county area that would be far more practically situated, hopefully with proximity to medical and law enforcement facilities. This would give the staff of the center important allies and resources to ensure the program’s success and would provide the kind of protection that other women’s programs have shown these women realistically need as they are in the middle of perhaps the most important transition of their lifetimes. It would show as well that the diverse groups in our community can work together putting the good of the community first over our individual interests.

Will Mosgrove, Anne Cook, Shirley Nester. Irene Perbal, Magali McGreevy, Barry Griffen, Elaine Thompson, Tinley Zeitz, Marta Johnson and Kevin Brady

Property owners and residents,

Mokelumne Hill