Structure House facilities closed, given extension by Code Enforcement Board

Apr. 24—Recovery facilities are in high demand, but five such residences were recently closed and the owners cited for violation of city ordinances.

The Structure House Sober Living facility has five locations in London, with a large number of residents who were moved out of the homes last week.

Owner Bret Watkins and his wife appeared before the London Code Enforcement Board on Monday to address the situation.

Watkins' attorney, Doug Logsdon from Lexington and, Jane Dyche who represented Evening Shade LLC, the owners of some of the residences where Structure House leased space, met with officials prior to the meeting and came to an agreement on the facilities.

The Code Enforcement Board agreed to give The Structure House owners an opportunity to correct some code violations, or to find other locations by a followup hearing in August.

Watkins, accompanied by several residents of the addition recovery facilities, expressed his gratitude to the board, stating he appreciated their cooperation with the agreement.

Watkins said he was appreciative of the Code Enforcement Board's decision.

"I'm eager to work with the city to make sure everybody is safe," he said. "One problem is that we do not have a sprinkler system and had no fire walls in the houses. We weren't overcrowded, but we had to have a sprinkler system if we have over so many people in a residence."

Watkins said the recovery homes are under strict regulations by state officials and that the facilities had passed their initial inspection. He added that state officials arrived again on Monday for a second inspection.

"We passed with flying colors," he said. "It's apparent that God is working for us, and that's what our program is based on."

He added that The Structure House residents will soon be doing community service work such as mowing at the Laurel-London Optimist Club and at New Life Church.

"We're also changing our program some," he said. "We will not be using bunk beds anymore. There will be 2 to 3 people in a room."

Watkins added that other options for residences for those involved in The Structure House programs are being investigated and was unsure whether residents would return to the same facilities. He did say that the program is "a calling from God" to help recovering addicts and that the manner in which city officials have worked with the organization has proven God's guidance with the program.

Code Enforcement Officers stated that The Structure House came under scrutiny following a fire at one of its houses on West Fifth Street a couple weeks ago. It was determined that they did not have a certificate of occupancy for their business there. It was disclosed that they were housing several individuals in several structures but there was no occupancy certificates on record for any of them.

Further investigation of the other premises uncovered numerous safety violations of both local ordinances, fire codes, and state building codes. The City Building Inspector directed that the premises be vacated until codes were met and proper occupancy certificates were obtained. He then sought a hearing before the Code Enforcement Board.

Following the agreement to continue the hearing on the agreed terms, hearings officer, Eric Edwards, told the crowd there to support Structure House that it is certainly not the purpose of the Code Enforcement office or the board to stop the good services being provided to the community by helping people retain their sobriety but the board is tasked with making sure it is done lawfully and safely.