Fear-mongering Over Rehab Houses Mirrors Race Prejudice

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I’ve read with concern the recent reader letters expressing outrage over the “proliferation” of drug and alcohol recovery treatment facilities in Laguna Beach.

Regarding Pillars Recovery in the Top of the World neighborhood, it was noted by the Indy that no police calls involving drug overdose or violence have been made, and police Detective Ashton further confirmed that “Top of the World is actually one of the safest areas in the city.”

Additionally, Deputy City Attorney Ajit Thind confirmed that, regarding enforcing city citations for nuisance-like activities, “we haven’t gotten to this point with any facility.”

Yet despite these truths, hand wringing and fear-mongering run amok.

Asking Pillars Recovery Director Lisa Friedman if she “would accept a sex offender” as a resident simply reveals the ignorance and absurd bias of her questioner. Why not also ask her if she would rent to a murderer?

This is also evocative of a similar hysteria a few years back regarding the El Morro campground renovation next to the elementary school. Concerned parents were convinced then that child molesters would descend on the school grounds. That hasn’t happened.

It is widely accepted that approximately 10 percent of American adults suffer from the disease of substance addiction. A random drive past the Canyon Club in Laguna Canyon routinely shows overflow parking for those, including many local residents, seeking support and recovery from alcoholism and addiction.

Yet these very same people who would seek a safe living environment in Laguna Beach are now to be met with our hostility and suspicion?

People in recovery are much safer and more responsible for their behavior than the many more individuals out there who are not seeking recovery and instead are driving intoxicated on our streets or committing property crimes to support their habits.

Many of these “untreated” addicts are also your neighbors, children, coworkers and friends.

Not surprisingly, it is also our friends, coworkers and children that will seek support and recovery in these local treatment houses.

The bias of some Indy readers reminds me, unfortunately, of those prejudiced individuals who at one time sought to restrict property access to minorities or gays, fearing for their property values or for the “safety” of their children.

None of those fears were proven valid and most of us now look back on those real examples of discrimination with a sense of shame and incredulity.

Let those shameful histories not be repeated now.


Steve Reid, Laguna Beach


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  1. How dare you compare racial prejudice to addicts…my God, I am stunned!.

    People of color can NOT change the color of their skin, yet an addict can go through some random “program” to avoid JAIL and you think THAT is on the same level?. Wow…and don’t think for one minute that a rehab profiteer won’t kick a “disabled” addict to the curb if their family can’t pay their 10 to 30 grand payment, those same addicts end up on the streets of Laguna, Costa Mesa and Newport, so stop with the idea that the rehabs are doing this out of the goodness of their heart.

  2. I’ve lived in Laguna for more than 20 years and so value the compassionate DNA of this city. When have the citizens of Laguna ever made such terrible blanketed judgments of people they 1) don’t even know and 2) who are trying to RECOVER from the insidious and cancerous addiction disease?

    Drug addiction is running rampant in our schools whether you choose to pay attention to it or not. It’s plaguing our town and our county. Maybe it’s time to stop pretending that addiction doesn’t exist or is for “bad” people, and allow this discussion to help families educate their children on this public health crisis. To say that having recovery homes in our neighborhoods is detrimental to our kids is absolutely ludicrous. No, not true. This fear-mongering, overwhelming denial, and us-versus-them mentality is really what’s detrimental.

    Thank you for bringing some balance and some sense back to this discussion.

  3. Ok, first, the heading on this letter does not accurately reflect what the writer said. Nowhere in the letter is skin color mentioned, except where Mr. Reid said, rightly, that landlords used to refuse to rent to gays and minorities. “Madmen,” you are rather madly hysterical in your criticism of the writer. How do you know the program is “random”? (What does that even mean?) Did anyone claim that these programs are nonprofits, doing a job out of the goodness of their hearts? No. These are programs created by counselors, psychologists and treatment experts who have set out to provide a valuable service, a lifeline. We aren’t above having – or needing – these establishments in Laguna Beach, and I am tired of residents insisting on micromanaging every aspect of their entire neighborhood. Did you catch the fact that there have been NO police calls to these houses? They are law-abiding. Like you, they want to be left alone to do their thing. You have more to worry about from the off-kilter homeowner next door than these folks in recovery.
    If you, your child or spouse needed such a treatment facility, would you not want it to be available? Shame on you for shaming people with addictions. We need to accept their plight and support the possibility of their successfully overcoming their addictions. These are hopeful people who are paying close attention to their actions and motivations – they aren’t running amok (that would be your batsh*t crazy homeowner neighbor). They need our support, not ridicule and fear-mongering. Have a heart for people who face challenges; it could just as easily be you or someone you love.

  4. ACTUALLY Herman, I have been unfortunate enough to have FIVE rehab profiteering houses on my block and I can say with authority that none of my other neighbors have given me such horrifying evenings as the clients in those houses.
    I have witnessed a woman ripping off her clothes running down the street screaming, trying to break into several houses before accomplishing that deed, running past a scared witless family into their bedroom where she barricaded herself, rummaged through their drawers (thank god they didn’t have a weapon) and when the police arrived… they told the homeowner “if you have her arrested it will be “hard” on her” basically discouraging them from filing a report and then allowed the rehab manager to PICK HER UP AND TAKE HER BACK TO THE HOUSE.
    That’s just one of a hundred instances. The next one was even worse, one addict attacked and beat another so badly that he split his head open… the victim left the hospital ER walked back to the rehab where he began to bleed profusely and then ran down the street never to be seen again…that was our average Wednesday.
    So don’t tell me about residential rehab, I’ve had a belly full.
    The writer did in fact bring up discrimination so again, the “hysteria” you speak of is ridiculous.
    All families have been touched in one way or another by addiction, and there is actual help to be found, it’s just NOT in a residential rehab profiteers house.

  5. Herman,

    You wrote, “Did you catch the fact that there have been NO police calls to these houses?”

    Your statement is FALSE. The police/fire/paramedics have most certainly been called to these homes.

  6. By they way HERMAN…the fact that “RACE PREJUDICE” is in the headline should give you a clue as to why I am stunned and outraged at the comparison. Sheesh.

    “Fear-mongering Over Rehab Houses Mirrors Race Prejudice”

  7. Madmen,
    It’s very clear from the writer’s article that “Mirrors race prejudice” was not the main point of the article. There was simply a slight mention of it at the end as a way to show the ludicrous nature with which groups are handling this issue. He doesn’t compare the disease of addiction to someone’s skin color, so there’s no reason to assume that you’re filling in holes that aren’t there or expounding on his points. It seems to me that the purpose of his writing was to give a balanced perspective to this incredibly one-sided discussion taking place in our town, something I hope we all can welcome and treat with respect. I’m sorry that you’re so fixated on the title, and really wonder if you actually gave the rest of his writing any rational consideration before spouting off behind the safety of your keyboard.

    Additionally, I’m sorry those experiences you had were so negative and extreme, and I can imagine that they were very frightening to witness. BUT both incidences could have just as easily been perpetrated by individuals in private residences, and are VERY extreme exceptions rather than the rule.

    Bottom line: to call for a blanketed ban on residential rehab facilities is not the answer to your plight, and the extremely dramatic language with which our community (and you) continue to “discuss” it, is not indicative of the compassionate, rational values we all hold as a town.

  8. Sorry “Thankful” But you are wrong, those horrifying experiences were not the “extreme exceptions” They were the norm and the only thing that stopped most of it, if not all, (at least on my street) Was the implementation of City Ordinances…hard fought and hard won.

    I do not hide behind my keyboard, I share experiences and wisdom regarding this issue because I and many others fought for YEARS to gain control over the quiet enjoyment of my home and my neighborhood.
    Rehab profiteers are like locusts, they prey upon the fear and trust of families searching for help for their addicted loved ones, they take over whole neighborhoods if not kept in check and yes, whole areas of cities. When those neighborhoods and finally take no more of the incessant problems that come with residential rehab and start fighting back…those same profiteers pick up and move on to the next town and start all over again, they have no vested interest in the neighborhood they reside in, they do not purchase these homes, they RENT, they pay greedy homeowners (who also don’t care about their neighbors) Tens of THOUSANDS of dollars in rent to keep quiet, take the money and never look back at the wreckage.

    Someone had posted at least one solution to that problem…OUT the names of the owners of these homes, if they have any integrity at all they will stop this insidious taking of quiet neighborhoods.

  9. I’ve got it, Madmen! And Leslie, too! Why not make that ultimate move and get your scared little selves behind some electronic gates where you can more carefully monitor your neighbors’ activities and behaviors? Oh, wait – those places actually contain some of the worst drug and alcohol offenders – and they AREN’T in recovery. Hmm, maybe there’s another planet you could find where everything is perfect enough for you? You and your family must be exemplary citizens who never have any problems to overcome – I’m sure they’d love to have you both.


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