Petition: Rising drug use, violence show need to move downtown recovery center

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A collage of photos attached to the petition to have the city move SOS headquarters out of downtown. (Courtesy image)

ROCHESTER - Saying that drug and sexual activity, fighting and the use of deadly weapons have become a menace near the SOS Recovery Center on South Main Street, a community organizing effort will petition the city later on Tuesday to relocate the nonprofit to another part of the city.

The petition, which was received by the city on June 2, says in part, "We reside and work in this neighbor and are very upset by the behavior exhibited at and around 63 South Main Street. We are fearful in our own neighborhood and we also believe that the behaviors we observe are unsafe for ourselves and the children of the City."

The petition, which has 66 signatures, concludes that drug activity has increased in the past several months.

It also claims that SOS staff and members of the First United Congregational Church where their offices are located have encouraged drug users from outside Rochester to come and live at the church.

The petition also states that a rust-colored Nissan truck recently brought to the property has been allowed to stay there and is the site of drug and sex activity, excessive noise and fighting after hours.

The SOS offices and First Congregational Church are less than a block from where a woman was found shot last month.

Billy Jo Ahearn died early June 6 just a short time after being shot around midnight. No arrests in the case have been made.

The mission of the recovery center is to, "reduce stigma and harm associated with substance misuse by providing safe space and peer based supports for people in all stages of recovery," according to the SOS homepage.

Elizabeth Atwood, SOS Capacity Building Specialist, had no comment about the petition today, referring all calls to SOS marketing and research officer Rene Philpot, who was not immediately available.

Rochester Mayor Caroline McCarley noted today that the petition will be delivered to City Council on Tuesday, but no public input will be allowed as it is a regular City Council meeting.

However, on July 17 during a City Council workshop, McCarley said it was her understanding that officials from SOS as well as petitioners could come together to discuss their concerns.

McCarley added that while she was sympathetic to some of the neighborhood concerns outlined in the petition, the city really had no say in the outcome.

"It's possible that we discuss it, but it's worth noting the council has no ability to do anything about moving (SOS)," she said.

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