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Restore House moving forward with home in Helga Township

John Hageman - HELGA TOWNSHIP – Despite its conditional use permit application being denied by the township board early Tuesday morning, Restore House, a residential treatment home in Bemidji, intends on moving to the neighborhood.

They also intend on being good neighbors to those who may not want them there.  

“We’ll continue to do what we’ve always done for safety,” Mary Greer, the Restore House program director said Tuesday. “We believe we’ve kept our clients and staff safe here in Bemidji and we’ll continue to do the same thing.”

The denial came after the proposal for the home, where people receive treatment for drug and alcohol abuse through a faith-based program, was debated during back-to-back township meetings lasting more than six hours inside the crowded Helga Town Hall Monday night.

A majority of those who approached the podium were opposed to the home moving into the community, though they said they weren’t opposed to it being elsewhere. 

Greer said Tuesday there have been Helga residents who have been supportive of the move into the neighborhood.

It became clear during the meeting, however, that the township board had no authority to stop the nonprofit from buying the house even if they wanted to. 

“It’s out of our hands at this point,” Don Clay, the township board chair, said Tuesday. 

The conditional use permit would have allowed nine people to live in the house, more than the six-person limit under township ordinance. The township planning and zoning commission rendered a tie vote on whether topeople to live in the house, more than the six-person limit under township ordinance. The township planning and zoning commission rendered a tie vote on whether to recommend that the board approve the permit request after two hours of public comment.  

Restore House intends on moving in and only housing six people in the Helga Township home. 

“We can’t serve as many people, and obviously we can’t hire as many staff,” Greer said. “Those two things break my heart really more than anything that was said at that meeting.”

Greer said during Monday’s meeting that they were “close” on closing on the property at 51756 229th Ave., but didn’t say when it could be finalized. The house in Bemidji, located at 1001 Mississippi Ave. NW, holds six people and is slated to become a women’s home. 

Many of the residents said during the meeting that they were worried about safety, a concern echoed by the township board in its findings of fact. 

The board also said permit restrictions the commission had discussed earlier that night would be too hard to enforce. 

Restore House staff and board members spent much of the meeting trying to reassure residents that they wouldn’t bring the home into the neighborhood if it was a safety risk. At least one staff member is at the house at all times, and the police have not been called to the Bemidji house in the past year, according to data from the department.   

“I know what a big deal community is, and I know what a big deal safety is,” Mindy Broden, Restore’s licensedalcohol and drug counselor told the crowd Monday. She added that she often brings her own young sons to Restore. 

“Not everybody that comes through is what you picture them to be,” she said. 

Addressing concerns that the home would treat sex offenders, Greer said level two and three offenders, the most likely to reoffend, wouldn’t be allowed. Level one offenders, the least likely to reoffend, could be treated for chemical dependency there after an interview process. 

Broden also stressed that no one coming into the home is forced on them by a court – Restore House has to approve them. 

“We don’t want to have people in our home – we call Restore House a home – that we feel wouldn’t be safe,” Greer said. 

That difference between a home setting and an institutional one is what sets Restore House apart, Broden said. And it’s a difference she knows well. 

She recounted how, after suffering from alcohol and drug addiction, she went to a 30-day hospital treatment program, only to relapse later. It was when she moved into a more Christian-focused community that she turned a corner and stayed sober.

She said the faith-based program at Restore can do the same. 

“We really are a community and a family,” Broden told the Pioneer. “And one of the biggest things that people want is belonging. And we offer that here.