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City orders homes for addicts to shut down

CINCINNATI (Angenette Levy) -- The city of Cincinnati has requested an injunction that would shut down seven transitional houses for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics.

The city has also requested a temporary restraining order that would prevent an eighth home from opening.  Ross Shively owns New Foundations Transitional Living.  He started operating the houses out of rental properties he owns four years ago.  The first one opened on Harris Ave.  Shively said his residents are referred to the houses by the drug court and rehab facilities.
"They basically live here as a support family where they support each other. They work 12 step program with AA or NA," Shively said.
Shively spoke exclusively to Local 12 News.  He said the residents of the houses must be sober and have jobs.  He also said background checks are conducted on the residents and sex offenders are not allowed to live in the homes.  Last month, the city of Cincinnati sent letters to Shively ordering him to stop operating the houses.  The city said the homes are zoned for single family use - not transitional homes.
"Honestly I didn't have any idea that that was even a factor," Shively said when asked by Local 12's Angenette Levy about why he didn't ask for a variance for the properties. Shively added, "In retrospect, yeah. I probably should have looked into that."
In its request for an temporary restraining order the city stated that Shively had started renovating an eighth property on Rutledge Ave. without the proper permits.  In a letter to Shively city officials stated they'd received complaints about the houses.
"The code is the code," Mayor John Cranley said. "If you live on a residential street and somebody opens up a restaurant next to you that's in violation of the zoning code, that's not fair to you or your property values. You buy property assuming that the zoning code that's in place will be enforced," he added.
Price Hill resident Pete Witte said he's opposed to New Foundations operating in Price Hill.
"They're clearly violating zoning codes. And the fact that the city and many residents don't even realize what's going on, it's very much a worry," Witte said.  He added, "As we're trying to re-establish owner-occupied housing, we're trying to encourage young families to come into our community, it's a concern that these kinds of establishments are setting up throughout our neighborhood."
Wednesday night, Witte said the Price Hill Civic Club told him the group opposes New Foundations operating in Price Hill.
Council member Chris Seelbach said Wednesday he was just learning about the controversy and wants to give New Foundations a chance to make its case. 
"If they are being good neighbors, just because they may be in violation of the zoning, which they shouldn't be doing, we should look at the possibility of adjusting the zoning laws," Seelbach said.
A man who asked to be identified only as Shane lives in the house on Harris Ave. He is a recovering heroin addict.
"A place like this that's willing to open up their doors to alcoholics and drug addicts to give them a chance to turn their lives around, it's nothing short of a blessing," Shane said.
If the city gets its way, Shane and 119 other residents will be told to leave the houses. Ross Shively hopes to argue the home is allowed under the Fair Housing Act. He's currently looking for an attorney. He believes his homes fulfill a need.
"We are part of the solution for the drug epidemic and we're being asked to cease and desist. Shut down," Shively said.

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