Violations close Shirley 'sober home'
A large house in Shirley with 27 residents -- a home for those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction -- was closed down Friday because of overcrowding and other violations, officials said.
Suffolk County Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) and Brookhaven officials said a town housing inspector entered the two-story yellow house at 502 William Floyd Pkwy. on Friday morning and discovered health and safety problems in the multiroom facility, including an infestation of bedbugs, roaches and fleas and inactive or missing smoke detectors, officials said.
Inside the house that officials said was a "sober home," the town inspection found 33 beds -- 25 above the legal limit -- and issued an immediate condemnation of the house, Brookhaven officials said. All 27 residents were expected to leave the premises by day's end, officials said, as county social services helped them to find new places to live.
Browning, the local legislator active in Suffolk's efforts to improve sober homes, estimated the owners of the house have collected at least $500,000 in the past five years in taxpayer-funded rental payments administered by the Suffolk Department of Social Services.
On Friday, Adrian Thomas, who has run the house and other similar properties in the Shirley-Mastic area, would only say that the house on William Floyd Parkway has been well run. He referred other questions to the listed owner of the property, who could not be reached.
In a story about sober homes last November in Newsday and on News 12 Long Island, Thomas acknowledged county records showing that as many as 360 people have lived at various times in recent years in that house located in a residential community.
"Some folks are pointing at the bottom line and they're saying, 'Wow, that's a large number of folks' and looking at the dollars," said Thomas, who has previously described himself as a co-owner. "As an entrepreneur, what that means is that there are 360 lives that we've helped."
Thomas also said he operates his homes as a business, with residents left to find rehab on their own as they try to maintain a drug-free environment. He stays in touch by cellphone.
Browning said Friday's shutdown of the house comes after many complaints, including some from residents of the house. She said the state must do more to improve sober homes as a place where recovering addicts can live.
"If we can't have legitimate sober homes, there has to be proper oversight from the state, because this is taxpayer money that is funding it," Browning said Friday. "The people who live there may become homeless if they can't find a place with a friend or family."