photo by Carrie Thompson, for the New York Times
The New York Times Magazine details St. Anthony Residence, a state-sponsored apartment complex for alcoholics in Minnesota. Catholic Charities helps run the place. Residents get $87 per month. It’s a lot like most government funded housing for people battling substance addiction, except for the fact that at St. Anthony’s booze is allowed. No 12 steps. No sobriety commitment. No obligated therapy. At St. Anthony’s, residences are allowed to drink their fill, in their apartment and in common areas. From reporter Benoit Denizet-Lewis’ piece:
“There are people who say: ‘That’s outrageous. You’re just enabling these guys to sit around and drink all day,’ ” Jim Gillham, St. Anthony’s service coordinator, tells me in his office. “And to that I say: ‘Well, we’re not actually doing that, because we help these guys moderate their drinking. Many drink much less than they did on the streets.’ I also try to help people understand how much taxpayer money is saved by this kind of program.”
St. Anthony’s approach is rooted in the idea that it ultimately costs tax payers more when men like this are left on the street, where they’re more likely to end up in jail, or in the emergency room. Homeless service providers in Los Angeles and other cities have used a similar metric to argue for more affordable or supportive housing. But I couldn’t see a wet house passing the smell test among Downtown stakeholders; I’m not sure of anyone in Skid Row, which may be the largest recovery zone in America, with the highest concentration of homelessness and substance treatment services, would embrace a “wet house.” Certainly not LAPD Off. Jack Richter, who believes that alcohol is more of a problem in Skid Row than narcotics.
St. Anthony’s was also recently profiled by Chicago Public Radio’s This American Life.
I'm Ryan Vaillancourt. I'm a reporter for the Los Angeles Downtown News. This is the flotsam and jetsam of a city rediscovering itself. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.