Kicked the Habit

Recovering addicts are threatened with eviction from Frankford.

By Christopher Wink
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 10 | Posted Feb. 18, 2009

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Sober studies: Recovery-house owner Jeffrey Jackson believes in being a positive influence in the community (photo by michael persico).

It's 1997, and Jeffrey Jackson is getting wet.

He's balled up, trying to sleep inside New Way Out, an addiction-recovery house in Kensington.

The 28-year-old addict is in the process of kicking heroin after moving on from cocaine, but he's starving and sweating and can't somebody stop that damn rain from coming in?

"I told the director, 'Hey, your roof is leaking,'" Jackson says now. "The guy looked at me with a straight face and said, 'Then move your bed.'"

Life is different for Jackson these days: Now 40, he has a master's degree in behavioral studies. He founded Dignity Recovery, which operates two sober-living homes in Philadelphia dedicated to helping addicts kick the habit through patience and therapy. It's a far cry from the care he received at New Way Out.

Jackson recently moved one of his recovery homes to a larger location not far from that old leaky roof from his past. He's also trying to add two more beds to a second home in Frankford, his childhood neighborhood. The former addict takes pride in the tall, orderly structure on the 1700 block of Harrison Street with its fresh coat of paint and tidy porch. The only hint of unusual activity is the small sign beside the door that reads "DIGNITY RECOVERY."

But opponents in the community say operations like Jackson's aren't welcome in Frankford because addicts attract dealers and crime to a neighborhood that's struggling to recover after decades of abuse and neglect.

Last week, in the basement of Saint Joachim's Church in lower Frankford, critics gathered to discuss what they call the saturation of the neighborhood by recovery homes like Jackson's. Representatives from the city's Office of Addiction Services (OAS), Department of Licenses and Inspections and the state Board of Health were all there to hear the angry spray from residents dismayed by Frankford's dense cluster of facilities devoted to helping addicts. Some residents estimate that there are more than 50 of these homes in the neighborhood, giving Frankford the highest density of addict-recovery homes in the city.

"We are saturated [with recovery homes] in certain areas," says City Councilwoman Maria Qui�ones-Sanchez of the 7th District, who is looking into potential legislative action on the issue. "We have more than absorbed our fair share."

Opponents aren't squawking about the state-licensed, OAS-funded inpatient and outpatient facilities that dot corridors like Frankford Avenue. Their tempers are reserved for the privately owned recovery homes--like Jackson's--which require little more than a business-privilege license to operate legally and aren't subject to city or state oversight.

Some people establish such homes with the best intentions, but others do so only for profit. In those cases, residents pay an entrance fee and hand over their food stamps, disability checks and any other government assistance for which they're eligible.

Elvis Rosado, formerly a therapist at a handful of clinics in and around Frankford, says these directors use the various welfare vouchers for themselves and provide residents with substandard living supplies. They might use their residents for contract work in construction, maintenance and cleaning, but those residents never see any money for it. These directors don't necessarily care about offering support or requiring that their residents attend therapy or sober-living meetings, Rosado says, so long as the government-assistance checks keep coming in and no one complains. Many of his former clients in recovery houses were mistreated: used for free labor, stolen from and underfed.

But, Rosado adds, "In Frankford, 25 percent of these homes are actually doing something positive. The good ones? If you visit them, they paint a beautiful picture. Recovery is possible there."

The "good ones" Rosado refers to may take government assistance from their residents, but they use it for healthy foods in an open, stocked kitchen. The home's directors help their residents find work and encourage them to save money. Like Jackson, they have staff members participate in non-mandatory recovery-house- operation trainings with the city's Department of Behavioral Health/Mental Retardation Services. They also participate in neighborhood events; Jackson attends every Frankford Civic Association meeting.

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1. Arthur Evans said... on Feb 17, 2009 at 09:48PM

“Very nice article. Its nice to see a fair and balanced story about recovery resources in the city. Congratulations to Christopher Wink.”

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2. j said... on Feb 24, 2009 at 02:16PM

“yeah this actually is a good story...weird”

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3. Anonymous said... on Jul 21, 2010 at 11:44AM

“jeff jackson runs bed bug infested homes, where you are aloud to use drugs freely and does not give urine screens. he takes your welfare access card and pin number, uses this as payment meanwhile he knows you are trying to do better and doesnt leave you a penny for a bar of soap. you then resort back to your old ways like prostitution and stealing to make it, eventually leading you back to drugs. A SAD EXCUSE FOR A MAN. If you only knew the truth

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4. Sarina Parler said... on May 25, 2011 at 07:30PM

“I am a recovering addict, and for Mr. Jackson to be in recovery, working as a counselor, and who is suppose to be giving back what was so freely given to him, it seem as though he has reverted back to his" old addictive behaviors." I would like to as a question, How can you sleep at night, and wake up with a clear conscience?, what kind of "Dignity" are you helping them to acheive, what kind of words of encouragement can you actual give to those you counsel, and still be able to run the kind of "recovery houses" you run, and say the words you say to them with honesty? Being an addict is hard, it's even harder when you go somewhere asking for help and still get used and abuse as though you were still on the street. Most of those trying to change their lives, will just give up and say, "why even bother".”

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5. Anonymous said... on Jun 14, 2011 at 04:40PM

“if anyone knows who to contact if i am living in one of these recovery houses and its infested with bed bugs where do i go to get help. to get someone involved who will make mr. jeff get rid of these critters...please..please help... oh by the way we have already been told by mr jackson himself if we open our mouth we will be out on the street.. email me at steph19149@yahoo.com”

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6. cara said... on Sep 18, 2012 at 07:22AM

“MR. JACKSON IS SUCH A FAKE. HE TAKES EVERYTHING FROM THE PEOPLE HE RENTS TO AND HE IS A SLUM LORD. HIS RECOVERY HOUSES ARE FILLED WITH BUGS AND RODENTS, THE SO CALLED STAFF HE HAS THERE ARE ONLY THERE TO COLLECT THE MONEY FOOD STAMPS TRANSPASSES AND OTHER BENIFITS FROM THE RESIDENTS. THE MEN WHO FALL BEHIND ON RENT HE MAKES WORK FOR HIM WITH NO PAY. THE WOMEN HAVE TO DO DEGRADING THINGS IN ORDER TO KEEP A ROOF OVER THEIR HEAD. JUST CHECK OUT HIS RECORD WITH L&I AND ASK PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN THESE PLACES BEFORE YOU JUDGE. TAKE THE TIME TO STOP BY A FEW OF HIS RECOVERY HOUSES AND YOU CAN SEE FOR YOURSELF WHAT KIND OF PLACE HE RUNS. ASK ANY ONE OF HIS RESIDENTS TO SHOW YOU THEIR WELFARE CARD AND I BET THEY CAN'T BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE THEM SINCE JEFF TAKES THEM ALL FOR HIMSELF AS PART OF THE RENT PAYMENT. EVERYTHING HE SAID IN THIS STORY IS A JOKE,”

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7. Anonymous said... on Sep 18, 2012 at 07:30AM

“it makes me sick to read this story. i know jeff personally. he is a sorry excuse for a man. he works at a methadone recovery clinic in phila and he has made quite the name for himself. he incorages people to steel him things he wants and then pays half what its worth. he pays women patients to do sexual favors. he is just trouble and don't think about reporting him because so far everyone who filed complaints on him or reported him has suddenly been dishcharged or detoxed from the program. usually the reason given is they were found in posession of pills or they are suspected of selling pills, which is bull shit. but somehow he gets away with it. i can't believe how many years he has been doing this and is still able to work with people recovering from adiction. if your considering renting from him do yourself a faver and RUN, RUN the other way.”

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8. Tonys Girl said... on Apr 28, 2013 at 07:41PM

“I am sorry to admit I know Jeff Jackson myself. I go to the recovery program that he currently works at. I don't know if the last person to leave a comment was referring to Jeff working at the Methadone clinic he worked at and got thrown out of or if you were referring to the one he is currently at it depends on how far back your going. I know from experience that Jeff is in his "old addict" ways and he has been for many years. I guess its debatable if he ever stopped the old behaviors. Some addicts put down the drug but never change anything else. I almost took an apartment from Jeff and I am SOOOO thankful that someone talked me out of it. I have dealt with Jeff retaliating against me at the program for bout a year now because of it. I too have been accused of "selling pills". I think its funny how in a years time Jeff said he has seen me selling pills right in front of the clinic, but the police never saw this nor did any other staff members. That didn't stop him from getting other patients at the program to back him up. Who does these kind of things. All over a stupid apartment that i didn't take because someone told me about the bugs and how if i fell behind on rent he would make me pay it off in sex. This man is evil to the core. Getting clean has been the hardest thing i have ever had to do. I never in a million years thought I would have to defend myself against a counselor who works at my recovery program. I hate everything about this man, I hate to look at him when i go to the clinic. Who does he think he is bringing down so many people who are struggling to pick up the pieces in their lives. I don't understand how he even got hired at my program after all he did at the other methadone clinic and him and Gaylord got fired how did he manipulate his way into another clinic. I wonder if Jeff paid off the guy who wrote this story, cause he obviously didn't do any real research on Jeff Jackson.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Apr 9, 2014 at 07:35AM

“If this is the right Jeff Jackson, he works at a methodone Clinic in Phila and buys stolen goods for someone in the northeast. My brother wants his snowblower back or we will report you to your job, What a disgrace. What a fake. You dont desirve to be working with recovery at all.This happened only a few months ago.”

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10. Carla said... on Sep 15, 2014 at 11:40AM

“Jeffery is my uncle and his only goal is to bring home to neighborhoods that, otherwise, wouldn't have any. Love the baldy lol”

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