Recovery Communities, Not Jails!

One of the most horrific of stereotypes about homeless people is “that they are all addicts” or something. Bullcrap!

Especially among the newly homeless (the fastest growing segment of the homeless population), addiction rates are no higher than in the general population.

That said, since a fear of ‘enabling’ drug users is a common fear among those who would withhold giving direct aid to the homeless, we should discuss the growing crisis of addiction. It is getting worse during this economic downturn.

U.S. incarceration rates

First, we should be aware that generally, when non-violent drug users go to prison for using, after their release they are very often then going to be VIOLENT drug  users.  Prison is the wrong approach for addressing addiction, generally speaking.

What about the large number of addicts now without shelter or jobs? Are they jobless and unsheltered because they use? Or are they using because they’re jobless and unsheltered? The answer is both. It can become a a downward spiral of despair-driven ‘self-medication.’

Addiction, Obit's

Broadly speaking, there is already a major epidemic of drug abuse in our culture. We are not talking about cannabis here, but rather about more serious, health damaging substances including alcohol, cocaine, heroine and meth.

Up-to-date crime and medical statistics suggest that a public health and safety emergency is already taking place due to meth and crack abuse alone, here in the Portland metro area.

The statistical numbers may rise and fall, but there has long been an “epidemic” of drug abuse in Portland,  as in many U.S. cities.

It is a statistical certainty that in cities with high rates of unemployment, ‘self-medication’ is more likely. Portland’s unemployment rate is growing fast.

Addiction and Recovery for Dummies

Given the broad diversity of the homeless population – much like a cross section of society itself – we would be wise to develop various kinds of recovery communities. Their nature and location should turn on the specific needs of those seeking help.

With regard to addicts in need of recovery, it should be noted that rural, working communities tend to have the highest recovery rates.

For those in recovery, a rural setting is often most helpful,

This is true primarily simply because recovering addicts can avoid easier opportunities to abuse — more prevalent generally in the cities and among their old ‘using friends.’

Blanchet Farm a local model

Among the more successful recovery programs here in the metro area, located rurally out near Newburg, is Blanchet Farm.
See, .
Blanchet Farm is a 12-Step addiction-recovery community which is also a working farm. Even the down-est and the out-est among us can find better health through green living, work and community!

Blanchet Farm

There are lots of other great models which we can look to as well, as we try this bold, more-inclusive-than-ever experiment here in Portland. What such work-oriented projects tend to show is that through green work and self-support comes healthy dignity — which in many cases helps lift individuals out of long established patterns of homelessness-inducing despair.

Growing Home a model in Illinois

Another great model working community for recovering addicts is found in the more rural outskirts of Chicago. Three different organic farming communities in the Growing Home system provide shelter, green work training, and the dignity of self support for hundreds of recovering addicts and formerly homeless people. The program teaches gardening, and marketing, helping resident workers to sell their vegetables in the City. by growing organic vegetables and selling them in the city.

"organic only" menas healthier work, food, and ecosystems

Growing Home uses federally donated lands outside of Chicago, and receives funds from a wide variety of sources from all levels of government. Self esteem and recovery rates are high among clients. See, .

Almost universally, some kind of work helps make for wholeness.

When it comes to making society safer overall, Portland’s  Central City Concern and CLEAN/SAFE have it largely right when they emphasize job creation as well as shelter for addicts otherwise likely to commit crimes in lieu of recovery. In Portland, we have seen progress with the downtown population.

Which is great but…

Let’s work on the City as a WHOLE now, can we?ambulance

We need to start developing many more highly-disciplined recovery communities.

It is no secret that growing drug abuse  is causing crime to go up in the Portland metro — no matter how well they clean up the downtown area.


This of course is making for public health and safety emergencies of every kind, and the general population suffers for lack of concerted response.

We must get rid

of waiting lists

as soon as possible,


facilitate recovery

for anyone who sincerely seeks it.

a right to shelter

lasting recovery is more likely for those who have shelter

This is just plain in EACH of our best interests. Public health and safety are at increasing risk because our ongoing inability to address this crisis without building more and more jails.

Jail time tends to make matters worse, because violence and crime are often learned there.

This must be stressed:  among the homeless, long term recovery often hinges on opportunities for both shelter and work. Effective recovery programs should incorporate both.

Again, the nature and location of communities should turn on the specific needs of those seeking help.  In any case, rural or urban, the dignity that comes through shelter combined with  opportunities for self-support are very helpful for long term recovery and wholeness.

For proof of this, see this Blog’s Page entitled “Green Work + Shelter + Community” with links to scientific studies and statistics.


– The G.R.O.W.S. Initiative

(Green Residential Oregon Work Sites)









2 Responses to “The Need for More Rural Recovery Communities”

  1. Squigs said

    Hello GROWerS,
    Thank you for this. My boyfriend has been in and out of treatment programs for years, but always goes back to using. It’s because he still hangs out with his friends in Gresham. If we would stay in treatment longer at Blanchet Farm or some other place in the country it would help. I know it would. Who do these “outpatient” drug treatment program people think they’re kidding – they dont work!
    – Squigs

    • Squigs,
      I’m sorry to hear your bf’s relapses. Tell him to keep trying! It’s so much more difficult when old friends are still using. My sister got straight only after she made a firm decision to make new friends and avoid the old. We have heard are a LOT of stories about deliberate abuses of ‘treatment’ programs in Portland. It’s a revolving door – a joke with many addicts going in with no intention of quitting – just to get some room and board for a time. Recovery out in the country somewhere is best. I spoke with Blanchet Farm administrators recently. There is a long waiting list there. They agree there needs to be many more such communities.

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