Years ago, when James Kasper had time off from work, he’d hit up the Value Motel, “the devil’s playground.”
It was the place to buy, sell, use or sleep off drugs. Now, with nearly 18 years of sobriety under his belt and savings in the bank, Kasper plans to turn the derelict motel into a 60-room recovery house.
Work has already started on the old motel off of Highway 99 in Hazel Dell. He plans to put a giant cross on the signpost facing Interstate 5 that for years has advertised rooms at $39 nightly.
One side of the motel at 708 N.E. 78th St. will house women and children, and the other side will be for men. Kasper, 53, plans to open it in December and already has a list of people interested in moving in.
“It’ll be a beautiful place,” he said. “This place has never seen what I’m bringing to it. It’s a huge undertaking, but I’m the guy to do it.”
You Can Help
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about donating time or money to turn the Value Motel into a recovery house.
After serving a multiyear sentence in the Clark County Jail for nine DUIs, Kasper spent three years living in an Oxford House in Vancouver. Though he initially fought the idea of living in a house with a bunch of other sober guys, he soon became house president. It was one of the best things he’s ever done, he said.
“If it’s ran right it’s an amazing program,” he said.
He needed the high level of accountability the house provided. It was there he started his own sandblasting company, Kasper Sandblasting, that’s provided the financial means to fund such an ambitious venture as taking over the Value Motel. He hired Robertson & Olson to help get through the permitting process.
Where the pool was will be a playground and outdoor area. There will be a community room, laundry room, dining area and shared kitchen. The reception area — the one where he checked in on countless benders — will become a recovery hall.
It’s part of Kasper’s vision to turn the places he used to haunt into places of hope and recovery.
On the other side of town in Orchards, Kasper took over what used to be a Mexican restaurant and a Denny’s before that.
Arlo Hammontree was among those in attendance. He’s been coming to Iron Horse for about three months and lives in sober housing.
“Being around people like Kasper and all these places, there’s a magic that takes place,” he said.
Going to meetings and living in sober housing, he said, is not only therapeutic, but it helps hold people accountable. It’s also an economical way to build one’s life back up and stay sober; Hammontree rents a room in a house for $450 a month.
Prices at the motel will be similar: $550 per month for double occupancy and $750 for single occupancy. Each room will have a bathroom, microwave and mini fridge.
Vicky Smith, who heads Xchange Recovery with her husband, Bill Smith, said she is glad to see the Value Motel be used for good. She was part of a group that recently visited the area to bless it.
“We’ve really been praying for that property forever,” Smith said. “We’ve definitely rescued many people from that motel back in the day.”
A place that had been left for dead is being transformed, just like many people who have gone through recovery, she said. While Kasper is funding the project on his own, her organization and others like it are offering help however it may be needed.
Kasper insists he doesn’t want any money from people with strings attached. He’s able to give back and has invested a lot into the motel, striving to make it safe and functional for those who are in the position he was in two decades ago.
“People need to know there’s hope,” he said.