There are up to 60 sober living houses in Manchester, fire chief says

NH Union Leader –

MANCHESTER — The city hosts 50 to 60 loosely regulated sober living houses, which provide supportive situations for people battling drug and alcohol addiction, a top city official said.

Fire Chief Dan Goonan, long a critic of the lax regulation of such homes, said last week his Fire Prevention Bureau has compiled a list of sober living homes. Residents of some homes claim they are just friends living together in sobriety, the chief said.

The list is based on what firefighters discover when they go on calls, sometimes for overdoses, Goonan said. Other information comes from organizations that approach the Fire Department and ask about regulations. But Goonan stressed that not all sober living homes make that effort.

“It’s completely unregulated. It’s in some ways a Wild West out there,” said Goonan, who is backing legislation that would reduce fire and safety standards (such as sprinkler systems) on recovery homes if they register with the state.

“We don’t want to close them down. We just want to make sure they’re safe,” Goonan said.

Meanwhile, an alderman is hosting a community meeting Monday night in Ward 2 about a sober house that opened without proper approvals on Russell Street in the North End.

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