CHANCE is on the move, from its current location in a church at 238 Third Avenue to a former pizza restaurant at 231 Lyon St. S.E.
The addiction and mental health recovery support organization has applied to city officials for a change of use permit and site plan review. Written public comments on the request will be received by City Hall through Friday.
In moving, CHANCE is gaining double the space, said Jeff Blackford, executive director. Once its new location is remodeled, the organization will be able to use the former restaurant kitchen to give cooking and nutrition lessons, and to turn the back storage and cooler areas into laundry and shower facilities.
Perhaps best of all, Blackford said, even though it's only a few blocks, the move brings CHANCE right into the heart of downtown Albany.
That visibility is important, he said, because addicts are part of the community, too.
"We want to take recovery out of the back streets, out of the dark corners and out of being hidden by the rest of the world, and celebrate recovery," he said. "We really want to put addiction front and center."
And yes, Blackford added, he really meant to say addiction, not just recovery, "front and center." Addicts are everyone: alcoholics; street junkies; high-profile, high-earning people hooked on opioids. That needs to be understood, he said.
"We want to show Albany we are just like everyone else. We are sons and daughters, moms and dads," he said. "We want to normalize what it looks like to be an addict, and to be treated."
CHANCE stands for Communities Helping Addicts Negotiate Change Effectively. Its mission is to provide support, guidance and resources to help people with mental health and/or substance abuse issues make healthy changes to their lives.
The program is not a drug treatment provider, Blackford stressed, although it can make treatment referrals. It's a peer support recovery center in which people share their own life experiences to help others navigate their challenges.
Everyone affiliated with CHANCE has battled addiction, mental health issues or both, Blackford said. In his case, it was a nine-year addiction to crystal meth, which he couldn't find the strength to kick until his life partner gave him an ultimatum.
If he'd had a place like CHANCE, Blackford said, recovery likely would have been easier. It's his goal, and that of everyone else in the organization, to smooth the path for others.
CHANCE is now in its 14th year and has locations in Albany, Lebanon and Newport. The organization has contracts with Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties to provide peer services for a variety of support needs. More complete information is available on its website at chancerecovery.org.
CHANCE does not charge for its services, but the money it makes from its contacts, plus grants it has received, helped it pay off its current location on Third Avenue and buy the building on Lyon Street, Blackford said.
The former restaurant likely won't be open for business as a CHANCE location until next spring, he said. That will give the time necessary to create new office spaces, turn the kitchen into five learning kitchens, replace the roof, put in new carpet, paint, update plumbing and electrical work, and do other finishing touches.
Furniture donated from Linn County Parole & Probation, which is also moving, is helping keep costs low, Blackford said.
The old spot may not close: CHANCE is considering keeping and renovating the church, possibly using it as a full-time meeting center for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, or possibly renting parts of it out for community gatherings to bring in more revenue.
"There's a lot of work to be done here, but it's going to lend itself to so many new, wonderful things," Blackford said.
He said he's looking forward to having space to teach recovering addicts how best to use their food stamp money, to show them how to cook using the contents of an emergency food box, and to give them a place to shower and change for a job interview.
The center will be a place that can provide more resources to give that "second, third, fifth, sixth, sometimes seventh chance" an addict may need to recover, he said. "Add some dignity back to their life."