GIDEON – Some residents of the Gideon community, north of Tahlequah, are up in arms after learning they’re about to have a new neighbor.

They say they have safety concerns because the new neighbor is a women’s facility for the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Program (DARP). Raymond Jones, program director and founder, purchased the old Gideon store from Joe Young. A group of Gideon residents learned about Jones’ plan when they saw workers at the old store building recently.

The building was converted into a residence.

“We’ve got safety concerns,” said Sheila Thompson, one of those opposed to DARP, a Christian-based addiction recovery program, moving into the area. “We’ve got a lot of elderly people living out here and they’re trusting people and some of them would open their door to anybody.”

She said several children also live in the area.

Jones said he purchased the building because the size of living quarters and the 3-1/2 acres that came with the building. A six-foot privacy fence will be built around the structure.

“They’re [DARP clients] non-violent and have no firearms charges,” he explained. “They’re going to be working at night.”

The clients will be bused from the site to Peterson Industries in Decatur, Ark. to work. DARP is privately funded through money the clients make at their jobs. The clients keep a portion of their earnings for expenses.

“No one’s left alone at any time,” Jones said. “They take random urinalysis and are supervised 24-7.”

DARP has been in Cherokee County since July 2001. Clients are in the programs for any length of time from six months to four years and were ordered into the program by the courts.

The program has more than 100 clients throughout its system. They also have facilities in Wagoner and Decatur in addition to a men’s facility on Jones Road.

“We’re giving these people a second chance at life,” Jones said. “I don’t know why people here [Cherokee County] are so dead set against us.”

He said other communities like Decatur, Ark. have welcomed the program. Jones said there have been no problems at the facility already open in Cherokee County.

Eulaine Bailey, who lives near the site of the proposed facility, said she and others are upset about the way they learned DARP was moving to the Gideon area.

“Nobody told us anything,” she said. “We found out by accident.”

Some workers were at the site and told Gideon residents that DARP was moving into the area.

Bailey and Thompson said they intend to start a petition drive to show the area’s opposition to DARP occupying the old store. The petitions may be given to Jones and/or the county commissioners.

“We’ve got some people looking into the legal end of it,” Thompson said.

Jones said he has a federal law on his side that keeps from denying housing to recovering drug addicts and alcoholics.

“There’s nothing they [Gideon residents] can do about it,” Jones said.

Bailey said Jones’ attitude is another thing that makes his program an unwanted neighbor in her eyes.

“I don’t like his arrogance about it,” she said. “I think he should have came to us and told us about his plans and not just try to shove it down our throat.”

Thompson said she and others living near the site believe a drug and alcohol recovery center will have a negative impact on their property rates.

Larry Wooley, who sold the property to Young, also questioned Jones’ plan.

“I don’t know how they’re going to house that many,” he said. “I don’t think the septic system will handle it either without doing a lot of remodeling.”

Marty Kimble said he shares some of Thompson and Bailey’s concerns.

“I think he should have came in and addressed the community in good faith,” he said. “At least the immediate neighbors.”

Those opposed to the facility say they fear they’ll become targets of the program’s clients.

Thompson and Bailey said the Gideon community is full of families who have lived there for years.

“We’re a tight-knit group,” Bailey said. “We watch out for each other.”

Thompson doubts participants in Jones’ program are first-time offenders.

“I think some of them are second, third or fourth time [offenders],” she said. “We just don’t want it out here.”

Thompson, Bailey and others intend to talk to anyone who will listen to see if they can help them with their concerns.

“We’d like to talk to Raymond Jones,” she said.

Jones said DARP is truly a good program that’s helped a lot of people recover from drug and alcohol addictions.

Thompson said she was urging neighbors to contact their local elected officials about the issue and the group is also planning a community meeting.

“We don’t want them at our back door,” Bailey said. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

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