New duplex development near 31st and Kasold would serve mothers recovering from drug, alcohol addiction

photo by: Douglas County GIS/Journal-World

The blue star marks the location where DCCCA hopes to build a new duplex community to serve mothers who are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. The property just to the left of the star is the current First Step treatment center where women can stay for the first 28 days of their recovery.

The 28 days that a woman stays at DCCCA’s First Step House can be full of challenges, as she works to take the tough steps of recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.

The 29th day, for what it is worth, can be pretty challenging too.

Many times women who are ending their 28-day stay at First Step House aren’t sure where they are going to be able to live once their time at the inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center has ended.

DCCCA hopes the answer soon will be: Next door.

The Lawrence-based nonprofit has filed plans with City Hall to rezone property near 31st Street and Kasold Drive to accommodate a new neighborhood of duplexes designed specifically for women who have gone through the 28-day program at First Step House.

“Housing is a huge barrier that can lead people into relapse,” said Alex Wiebel, a spokesman for DCCCA.

A concept plan filed at City Hall shows five duplex houses — meaning 10 individual living units — and a clubhouse built on a portion of the vacant property at 3000 W. 31st St., which is just east of the First Step treatment center.

If you are having a hard time picturing the area, the First Step center is just southeast of the Kasold Curve — where 31st Street turns into Kasold Drive — and the building used to serve as the Lakeview Nursing Home.

The First Step treatment center provides care only to women, and the facility further specializes in providing treatment to mothers of young children. The facility has a licensed child care center within it.

Wiebel said the new duplexes will be designed to accommodate the women and their children. Having the units next door to the First Step center will allow DCCCA to provide a variety of services to the duplexes, which might be difficult to do if they were located elsewhere.

“We think that will be an ideal setup,” Wiebel said of the location. “How our treatment and recovery can be worked to continue with those women on that campus, it will be a nice extension of our work.”

It also is a true expansion of the services that DCCCA is able to offer. The nonprofit currently does not own or operate any transitional housing units.

“This will be a new challenge that we are excited to get going,” Wiebel said.

Exactly when the project will open, though, is one of several details that still have to be determined. The exact size of the project is another such detail. The concept plan filed with City Hall shows 10 duplex units in five buildings, plus a clubhouse. But Wiebel said DCCCA is still in fundraising mode for the project. The project seems to fit in well with the city and county’s new comprehensive plan to address homelessness, which is called “A Place for Everyone.” That plan places an importance on transitional housing, and notes that Douglas County is lacking such housing units. That has DCCCA optimistic that the project will have good opportunities to garner grants and other such types of funding. Wiebel said DCCCA leaders are hopeful that construction can begin this year, with housing units opening by the middle of 2025.

A first step for the project, though, is to get the right zoning in place on the vacant land. Currently the land is zoned for single-family homes, which would prohibit the construction of the duplex units. The project is seeking multi-family duplex zoning for the property. That rezoning request will need to go before both the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission and the Lawrence City Commission before the project can move forward. In the meantime, the project will be able to continue securing funds and finalizing decisions about its design and size.

Another detail to be worked out is how long residents will be allowed to stay in the transitional housing units.

“That has been up for discussion,” Wiebel said of length of stay expectations. “There is not a perfect timeframe for when someone transitions into that next living space and what that looks like and whether that is for a few months at a time or longer.”

Wiebel said the answer likely will depend on the individual family situation, such as whether they have supportive family members in the area, and what type of environment they would be re-entering, which is one of the reasons why transition housing is important to begin with, he said.

“That has been one of the challenges,” Wiebel said. “When they do go back to the cycle of where they’ve come from, it may be a challenge for them to sustain their recovery.”


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