NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) - A halfway house in Newport says they were blind-sided when the city told them to vacate, leaving tenants shocked. But, the city says the house was operating without a permit.
The T. W. Barnes Halfway House in Newport is a place where individuals are starting a new life free from addiction of drugs and alcohol.
"This is like a big old family to me. If I didn't have this place I would either be dead or in a gutter," says resident Angela Timberlake.
The facility was built back into 1994, and was originally an assisted living home for seniors, but as of 2008 it became a halfway house for recovering individuals. I was a transition that caught the attention of city officials two years ago.
"Informed us that we were in violation of city ordinance, that this was a multi-family situation and they didn't want those type of people here," says Jim Clark, who is the Vice President of Addiction Treatment Services for Health Resources of Arkansas.
"My response to them at that point was that we were allowed to build this facility of that type it's a group home type facility and we were not in violation," says Clark.
Clark says he hasn't heard anything since 2008 about the violations...until last week when he was contacted by the local court.
"We were informed that we were operating without a permit here and that we have to shutdown," says Clark.
Newport Mayor David Stewart says the situation has been going on for years, but recently surfaced after several complaints from surrounding citizens.
"You can't have the type of facility that they have in that district without a conditional-use permit. From the investigation from the Police Department and code enforcement officer, they determined they were in violation of city code," says Stewart.
"I had a meeting with the Mayor last Wed. He informed us that it wouldn't do us any good to file for a permit. He said he knew it was a holiday, he would give us five days," says Clark.
"They are supposed to be vacated from the building at this point. I understand they may not be, our city attorney, and our prosecuting attorney is very well aware of that and we are taking step to make sure the code is enforced," says Stewart.
Clark says regardless, he plans to give the tenants living in the facility 30 days to vacant, and will help assist them anyway he can.