PLATTSBURGH — A Plattsburgh man who knows first-hand that addiction recovery can happen wants to extend that opportunity to others.
MHAB Enterprises LLC plans to purchase the Clinton Community College dorms and dining hall, located on Dormitory Drive on the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base, and convert the buildings into a housing complex with onsite support services and opportunities for people in need.
“We’re going to turn this into a life-skills campus for people who struggle with alcohol, substance abuse, mental illness … any of those things that surround people not being able to get a leg up,” said Michael Carpenter, president and founder of the MHAB project and CEO of the Northeast Group.
The opioid epidemic, alcoholism, drug abuse, mental health issues and ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed) create the perfect storm for increases in homelessness, Carpenter said.
‘TOOK A CHANCE’
Carpenter is a former drug addict and alcoholic who’s been clean for about 30 years.
When he first got clean, he had gaps in his resume, no money, limited job skills and limited people skills.
“Probably undeservedly, there were great people in this community who stepped up and took a chance on me and gave me the opportunity to be something and to improve my life,” Carpenter said.
“I made a commitment that if I ever had the opportunity to do this for other people, I would.”
‘THIS METHOD WORKS’
Carpenter got a chance to do just that about five years ago when a husband and wife came to work for him.
The couple were wrapped up in the meth business, and Child Protective Services took their kids away.
The father was facing a 20-year sentence for federal interstate trafficking of meth.
Carpenter wrote a letter to the judge and stood up in Utica Federal Court to speak on the couple’s behalf.
The man received probation, and, five years later, he and his wife still work for the Northeast Group. They have their children back, and they own a house in the city.
“So shame on anybody who says this doesn’t work,” Carpenter said. “We should all be ashamed if we think that by not reaching out, this problem is going to go away. We can’t arrest ourselves out of it. It takes all of us.
“I have first-hand, personal experience that this method works,” he said of the project.
The 10 acres of property, including three dorms and the dining hall, is owned by the Clinton Community College Faculty Student Association.
The number of students who live in the residence halls has declined over the years, and the cost of maintaining them has been prohibitive, said Clinton Community College President Ray DiPasquale.
“We run these at a very serious loss,” he said. “So from a business perspective, it doesn’t make sense.
The college will open the residence halls for the very last time this fall.
There are currently only 20 students signed up to live there.
The college plans to work with SUNY Plattsburgh to house students in the future, DiPasquale said.
MHAB, a subsidiary of the Northeast Group, hopes to kick off its project next spring.
The organization is holding an open house at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, to share more details for the property and project, followed by tours of the dining hall and dormitories.
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