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Potsdam halfway house delayed as group seeks funding

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POTSDAM — The construction of a controversial halfway house in downtown Potsdam has been delayed while the nonprofit group responsible for its creation seeks funding.

The house would provide a temporary home for women recovering from drug addiction. Those who have completed a rehab program would be eligible to spend six to 12 months at the home, learning job skills while cooking and cleaning for themselves. The home is to have beds for 12 women.

The idea was created by New Hope Transformation Ministries, a Christian nonprofit agency founded by members of New Hope Community Church.

Members expected construction on the vacant lot at 88 Market St. to begin this year, but by the time the group received the necessary permits it was too late to apply for state funding in 2012.

The state’s Homeless Housing Assistance Program will soon accept applications again, and New Hope Transformation Ministries is nearly ready to apply.

“With any luck at all, by next Friday the grant will be shipped off to Albany,” said Carolyn M. White, former director of the chemical dependency unit at Canton-Potsdam Hospital and chairwoman of New Hope Transformation Ministries.

It will take three to four months for the state to decide whether to award the money. If it is approved, it will be an additional 13 months before the house can open its doors. Construction may begin late this year, to allow a 2014 opening.

“I’ve put my heart and soul into it,” Ms. White said.

If the group does not receive the grant money, construction will be further delayed as they weigh their options.

“We’ll have to go back to the drawing board,” Ms. White said.

The plan came under fire from residents when it was first presented to the village Planning Board last year. Those who lived near the property, which has been vacant since 1992, worried that bringing recovering drug addicts to the neighborhood could lead to increased crime.

The Planning Board approved the house in October, and the criticism has quieted some since, according to Ms. White.

“We haven’t heard from anybody since then,” she said.

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