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Acosta recovery house closes

October 27, 2018 GMT

An Acosta-based residential drug and alcohol recovery program for men closed quietly earlier this year.

Members of the Somerset County criminal justice system who had supported Next Day Ministries, often sending individuals there to work on their recovery from addiction, were unaware of the closure.

The recovery program was shut down because of a lack of funds, according to former CEO Robert Walters.

“We (the board) made a decision around the turn of the year to close,” he said.

Next Day is a nonprofit, Christ-centered, long-term rehabilitation recovery program.

“It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made,” Walters said.

At the former rectory turned recovery house at 517 Acosta Road, the grass is high, cobwebs are spread over the door handles, and the building has been stripped of not only residents and staff but many of its furnishings.

A pair of boots, a headboard and a pool stick are scattered about the property.

There was no public notice that the program had been ended, no notes on the building, just a dusty and bug-filled plastic sleeve with paperwork inside hanging over the front door knob.

“My wife (Karen) and I kept it going with our own money,” Walters said. But the drain on their personal bank account never stopped, he said, and they were nearing bankruptcy when they went to the board to call for an end to the program.

The organization’s tax Form 990 for 2015, the latest year available, shows a $7,572 deficit but net assets of $50,294, the result of a carryover from the previous year.

The couple had initiated a licensing process to be able to obtain funds for clients through Medicaid but were told by the government it would take an additional six months to a year before the certification would be received.

“It was a disheartening thing,” he said.

Nearly 100 men went through the program since it opened in 2015, he said. Fifty percent completed the program and at least 15 now live drug- and alcohol-free lives, he said. The men paid for the services in various ways, sometimes out of their own pockets or with help from insurance, grants or the Walters.

The program received donations from local business people and churches, and the couple wrote funding grants but did not get them, Walters said. That cost money that he and his wife provided, he said.

His church, First Christian Church of Somerset, was among the program’s supporters, with parishioners giving what they could to help. Other church groups and individuals also donated, he said. The nonprofit received nearly $64,000 in contributions, gifts and grants in 2015, plus nearly $29,000 in program service revenue, but had nearly $100,000 in expenses, according to the Form 990.

Early on the county probation department, district attorney and president judge supported the recovery program. Walters spoke as a character witness for defendants who were in his program at court hearings. Those recommendations stopped last year, however. Walters has not been seen in the court that he had frequented for some time, according to court officers.

Erin Howsare, of the Somerset Single County Authority for Drug and Alcohol, said she had dealt with Walters and knew of his program, but it has been some time since she last heard from him or heard anything about the program.

“I wish him well,” she said.

Public defender Steven Miller said he did not know much about Next Day Ministries.

“I know when they first got started out there, maybe 2014, 2015, the guy who ran it was a very high profile,” he said. “He was in court all the time. I know he was talking to probation people frequently, people over at the Single County Authority. I know that I had as many as half a dozen, but probably not that many, clients who got placed out there, or went through the program to get some benefit on their charges or maybe to satisfy a treatment (condition). . . . and then he just kind of dropped off the radar.”

Miller said he does not recall seeing Walters in court for at least a year. He said he did not know if the residential recovery program was still active and taking residents.

“I just don’t know,” Miller said.

Walters said that for months he and his wife did not receive “a dime” and used their own money to keep the program going. The program ran more than three years.

“We put guys in the program that had nothing, but they wanted to change their lives,” he said.

He said he and his wife even went to Pittsburgh to get a former resident who was released from the program for not adhering to the program’s requirements when they learned he was once again homeless.

The first time he was found living under a bridge in the city. That man is one of the 15 doing well, Walters said.

The nonprofit bought the building in 2015 and still owes a mortgage. The house has seven bedrooms, five full bathrooms, two kitchens, a recreation room, a coffee room for residents and a boardroom for staff and the nonprofit’s board of directors.

“We (the board) don’t know what we are going to do with the property,” Walters said. “We are discussing selling it.”