West Dover neighbors protest incoming Oxford House for recovering addicts

By Benjamin Rothstein
Posted 4/11/24

DOVER – Oxford House, a program the provides housing for addicts in the stages of recovery after rehab, will be using a home located on 10 Merion Road, in the Foxhall neighborhood, as a new …

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West Dover neighbors protest incoming Oxford House for recovering addicts


DOVER — Oxford House, a program the provides housing for addicts in the stages of recovery after rehabilitation, will be using a home at 10 Merion Road, in the Fox Hall neighborhood, as a new location.

Neighbors voiced frustration at a town hall Wednesday, hosted by 1st District council members Julia Pillsbury and Gerald Rocha, as well as councilman-at-large Andre Boggerty. Fox Hall resident, former Dover City Councilman and current state Rep. Sean Lynn also spoke at the meeting.

Rep. Lynn said legal protections go beyond the city and even the state. He spoke of a similar situation that took place during his time on the council regarding an Oxford House on 200 N. State St.

“What we learned from the 200 North State Street issue with Oxford House is that Oxford Houses are protected by federal law,” he said.

“So, the way that it works is that Delaware can give a minimum threshold of protections, but we can never give less protections than that which the federal government is afforded.”

He said that at the time, he tried to get investors to purchase the State Street residence from Oxford House, but they refused to entertain an offer.

Both residents and hosts claimed that it has been difficult to find out what is going on with the house, with Councilwoman Pillsbury getting confirmation that it will be an Oxford House minutes before the town hall from a Wilmington realtor who worked on the sale. She noted that the new owner could not be disclosed to her for legal reasons prior to the sale’s closure, which did not happen until late March, explaining why confirmation took so long.

Maria Borris, a resident who has been a makeshift liaison between the neighborhood and the 1st District City Council members, voiced concerns.

“It’s just this is something I’m passionate about because it concerns the safety of my students. (As) a teacher and a nurse, I have a dual obligation to report. It’s a mandatory requirement for my job. And also, I’m a mother. I have a 16-year-old right now in my house. So, as I’m sitting in here, I’m comfortable at this time because I know that that neighborhood is still safe. But once that Oxford home is installed, I don’t know if I’m going to be safe,” said Ms. Borris.

She told a story of a Seaford woman who was robbed and sexually assaulted in 2023 by a Salisbury, Maryland man who had been evicted from a halfway house, a similar type of institution to an Oxford House.

The threat of eviction is an important protection for the neighborhood, the hosts argued.

“They all are getting jobs. They’re involved, and they want to be sober. They want to be healthy, and they’ve already gone through rehab. So, this is a next step. It’s not a detox or rehab program. It’s just a place to give them somewhere to live while they work,” said Dr. Pillsbury.

“And they, from what I’ve read, have to pay rent. They have to be responsible, and the house can evict them if they’re not responsible. So, it sounds like Oxford houses are very well run.”

Some at the meeting were concerned about liquor and marijuana stores within walking distance.

“If you’re helping a recovering addict, what’s the best thing to do? Not putting them in front of temptation. They have a smoke shop, that legally sells marijuana now, and a liquor store less than a half-mile away,” said resident James Fraser. “It doesn’t make sense. You’re trying to help somebody, and you’re going to put them in front of temptation?”

Council people and residents frequently spoke over one another. Residents stormed off the podium while hosts were still talking to them.

Rep. Lynn proposed the idea of another town hall, one that would have representatives from Oxford House present. Residents and hosts both spoke of the difficulty they had had contacting the corporation, but Rep. Lynn said he was confident he could make it happen.

“I live there. I’ve got three kids (and) I don’t want it there either. The bottom line though, is I don’t want you to leave here with some unrealistic expectation that we can somehow stop it from happening. I’ve gone down this road before,” he said.

The next meeting has not been scheduled.

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