Easy Does It seeks approval for West Reading group home

  • By Michelle N. Lynch mlynch@readingeagle.com @BerksMichelle on Twitter

Substance use disorder treatment provider Easy Does It hopes to open a group care home in West Reading. The nonprofit bought the rowhouse at 333 Sunset, left, in February.

Easy Does It Inc. is proposing a supervised care home for a property in West Reading.

The nonprofit, which provides recovery treatment at its main clinic, 1300 Hilltop Road, Bern Township, bought the house at 333 Sunset Road in February.

Easy Does It has asked the borough’s zoning hearing board for a special exception that would permit a group home in the medium density residential neighborhood.

H. Scott Althouse, executive director of Easy Does It, testified Monday at a virtual zoning hearing that the proposed group home would provide housing for up to eight adults recovering from substance abuse disorder.

About 40 people joined the hearing via Zoom.

Althouse said the federal government recognizes substance abuse disorders as disabilities.

“Addiction is really rough,” he said, “but recovery is possible.”

The proposed group home would differ from Easy Does It’s main treatment facility, he said, and from the nonprofit’s former social quarters on Walnut Street in Reading.

Residents of the proposed care home would be those who have undergone detox and treatment. While living there, they would practice life skills such as living with others and conflict resolution, Althouse said.

Residents would be required to stay sober, hold jobs and perform community service work and would be tested for drug use twice a week, he said. Background checks would be performed, and no violent criminals or sexual offenders would be permitted to live in the home.

Althouse said Easy Does It’s studies determined there is a need for such group care homes in Berks. The organization selected the West Reading location due to the borough’s walkability and access to public transportation, shops and other amenities.

Michael Dautrich, an attorney for Robert and Natalie Kulesa, owners of the adjacent home, asked several questions about how the residents will be screened and monitored and compliance with borough laws and regulations.

Questions also were taken from the public.

Most concerns were about how cases of relapse and criminal activity would be handled.

Althouse said Easy Does It works with the Berks County Council on Chemical Abuse, which has an agreement with Adult and Teen Challenge in Rehrersburg since Tower Health closed its acute treatment facility this year. Anyone in need of detox would be taken to Teen Challenge.

Emergencies would be handled by calling 9-1-1, he said, and criminal activity would be reported to borough police.

Easy Does It intends to abide by borough laws and regulations, Althouse said.

Two off-street parking spaces for residents and one for staff would be provided to meet zoning requirements. Only two residents at a time would be permitted to have motor vehicles, Althouse said.

Althouse said most are familiar with the effects of the opioid epidemic on communities in Berks.

“We are a counter balance to that,” he said. “We are a solution.”

Under West Reading’s ordinance, such a group home is not a “use by right” in an R-2, medium-density residential zone, according to Cathy Hoffman, borough zoning officer and code enforcement manager. This means the use is allowable by special exception if the applicant is able to provide enough information to show the use will be good for the community.

In making its decision, Hoffman said, zoning board members will consider the health and safety of borough residents.

The zoning hearing board has 45 days to make a decision, solicitor Jason Ulrich said.

Michelle Lynch

@BerksMichelle on Twitter

Michelle N. Lynch is a reporter for the Reading Eagle.

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