LAWTON (KSWO) -Tonight, Lawton City Hall was packed with angry residents from the Fields and Dunning neighborhood who complained about the recent placement of a home for recovering drug and alcohol addicts.
The Oxford House opened four weeks ago. It is located on Northwest Maple Avenue in central Lawton, across the street from a park, and just down the street from Whittier Elementary School. The non-profit organization that runs the home operates several like it nationwide. The men who live there pay for all expenses and must live by strict rules, including finding a job, and avoiding all drugs and alcohol, or they will be expelled. But, residents tonight expressed resentment about not being told about it sooner.
Residents said they understood the group's mission, and that they believed it was a good thing, but they just did not want it to be placed in their neighborhood.
" Why can't they be put in public facilities that have been standing empty, and research it a little more."
"What you are doing is awesome, our concern is that our kids and grand kids, and what might happen."
"Who will be there when you are gone, will it be left unsupervised."
That was a common complaint tonight at City Hall, everyone in attendance solidly opposed to the placement of the home in their neighborhood.
"I don't like the fact that they just sprung it on us in our neighborhood. We had no preparation for it, no idea what was going on."
Resident Civa Hill said she was concerned for the safety of her kids.
"I have a daughter she is 16, she walks to and from on the sidewalk to the school. Our biggest concern is hearing about the Oxford home. They really don't have anyone to monitor them", said Hill.
Lawton Oxford House Coordinator Ian Digby is a recovering alcoholic. The men who live there are held accountable by their roommates. It helps them make their transition to a sober life. He says people misjudge them from the outside looking in but they are no threat to the community. The Oxford home leaves a positive impact on each resident's lives.
"I love Oxford house it saved my life and I get to see it save people's lives on daily basis and that's why I am so passionate about it", said Digby.
City officials informed the crowd that Oxford homes throughout the state of Oklahoma fall under a protected class under the Federal Housing Act and the Americans with Disability Act. City manager Jerry Ihler says they are allowed to have a permit to have a home wherever they please, as long as they obey the laws, just like every other citizen.
That answer left the crowd frustrated, knowing that their complaints won't change the situation.
"Just hard to swallow because it is in our neighborhood. I mean right down the street from the school and right across the street from a park. How worse can it get? There are many other houses vacant that are not even near a school or park, why did you pick here", said Hill.
City council members told the group they will also continue to address any concerns residents may have. Police James Smith was also in attendance tonight, and he said says they will address their concerns, as always, if something criminal is suspected.