Recovery next focus of retiring retirement home

Christian program for men fighting addiction will replace Rose Ranch in east Hazel Dell

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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A modest mom-and-pop retirement home in east Hazel Dell is about to change ownership and host a different type of client.

Leaving for new homes are 16 elderly residents. Incoming next January will be adult men who have signed up for serious Christian training as a way to beat addictions.

“It’s a natural changeover,” said Dan French, owner-operator of the Rose Ranch Retirement Inn at 8613 N.E, St. Johns Road for the past 11 years. “It’s going to be a great community asset, given what’s happening in the world, and it’s a great use of the property. This place will be a gem.”

French has tried to keep the tucked-away compound of large and small buildings a gem, but in recent years he just hasn’t been able to keep it maintained the way it should be. The 63-year-old Vietnam veteran has suffered latent health effects of exposure to Agent Orange, he said, and he’s now considered 100 percent disabled by the veterans administration.

French is clearly brokenhearted about having to retire. “With great sorrow and heartache, I must announce that an era is ending. I am personally saddened and distressed,” he wrote to residents on Oct. 10. “I feel like I am abandoning you.”

The letter gave residents their legally required 90 days’ notice of the facility’s closure — no later than Jan. 11, 2011. Social workers and the state Department of Social and Health Services are helping the elderly residents find new homes, he said.

“I really hate doing this,” French said.

Street minister

The place had been on the market for a few years — and was more or less laughed at, French said, by potential buyers who explored its collection of aging structures — when the Rev. Jim Cottrell discovered it.

Cottrell is the founder of Freedom House Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit group that uses Christian teachings and daily labor to help men beat “life-controlling problems” — especially addictions to drugs and alcohol.

According to an online biography, Cottrell came from a broken home, ran with young rebels and criminals, spent time in an institution, and did drugs in college and the Army. He was on the streets of Hollywood, living the hard, fast life of the Sunset Strip druggie, when he joined a “hippie church” and came to Jesus.

After that, he said, he spent years as a street minister. “Working with broken people was the most fruitful thing I could do,” he said. “I knew the power of the Gospel could transform those kids they way it transformed me.”

He came to Portland and led a ministry called Portland Teen Challenge. Then, in 2005, he started Freedom House, which was housed at a Northeast Portland hotel — the Quality Inn & Suites and Rodeway Inn on Sandy Blvd. — until a fire last spring shut the place down. It was later sold. Cottrell had to search for a new home for Freedom House in a big hurry.

“Our team was praying hard and looking to the Lord for direction,” he said. “Dan was the answer to our prayers.”

Faith-based

Cottrell said he expects 16 clients and three or four staff members to live on site. His program is highly structured, lasting one year and including 30 hours of “spiritual work” per week — Bible classes, discussion groups — as well as daily labors both on- and off-site. The day begins at 6 a.m. and lights out is at 10 p.m. No smoking is allowed. Anybody who strays is promptly booted out for 30 days, he said.

“They’ve got to think seriously about this commitment,” he said. Photos of Rose Ranch are already posted at www.freedomhouseministries.net.

Cottrell said he doesn’t have much faith, so to speak, in secular addiction recovery. Many of his clients have already been through short-term treatment and recovery programs that didn’t take, and come to him as a last resort — halfway believing they’re beyond help.

“Faith-based has a higher standard,” he said. “We have a spiritual dynamic they are not able to apply. They are hamstrung.”

As opening day approaches next spring, he said, he will hold an open house to introduce Freedom House Ministries to the community. Neighboring properties include a handful of older homes and county-owned open space along 88th Street.

The property was long ago permitted by Clark County as a residential care home for people in recovery from drug addiction, and a September letter from Clark County assures Cottrell that the permission still applies. Because Freedom House Ministries is not a treatment program or medical facility as defined by law, it requires no social-service oversight or staff certifications.

“We are highly committed Christians, not lettered professionals,” he said.

Freedom House is entirely private and supported through donations and tuition that runs up to $1,000 a month, plus a $300 nonrefundable application fee. According to program literature, it costs approximately $2,000 per client per month to operate the program.

Scott Hewitt: 360-735-4525 or scott.hewitt@columbian.com.