WILLIAMSON - Two men said they were kicked out of the Serenity Pointe sober living facility in Williamson for breaking rules, but the they cannot be legally evicted from the building without a court hearing first.
Meanwhile, the facility's executive director has updated the rules to bar any resident from effectively talking about their treatment there.
Eugene Pleasant, 31, and Greg Miller, 51, both of Charleston, arrived separately at Serenity Pointe near the end of May in hopes of finding stable places to live during their recovery from drug addictions.
The facility, operated by the Mingo County Housing Authority, is described on its brochure as "60 efficiency, affordable units" for recovering addicts to get a new start.
The men said they knew the program came with some restrictions on leaving, community service, chores and a curfew. However, Pleasant and Miller said red flags were raised about the community service requirements after they were in the program for about a week.
The former hotel has not been completely refurbished and residents were allegedly required to do construction work on the building's third floor as community service hours. The men said they ripped up carpets, transported heavy refrigerators up elevators and painted walls to ready the former hotel rooms into efficiency apartments.
"Before we walked in through the door, that building should have been established and ready to go," Pleasant said. "When you have a housewarming party, you welcome everyone into a welcoming foundation."
The Mingo Housing Authority held an open house on March 26, with only the first floor ready to be shown. Belinda Harness, Mingo Housing Authority executive director, said at the time she expected the third floor to be finished before women began moving into the facility.
Serenity Pointe is a co-ed living facility with 20 apartments for men on the second floor and apartments for 20 women on the third floor. The fourth floor, which has not been refurbished, is intended for apartments for 20 pregnant women or women with children.
Over the next two months, men began moving into the facility, including Pleasant and Miller. The men said they began having trouble with the facility when they wanted to start looking for jobs after 30 days. Instead, they were required to attend classes all day with little free time to put in applications, they said.
After they stayed past designated free time last week, the facility allegedly locked them out. The men said they relapsed on alcohol under the duress, returning to the facility smelling of alcohol. A deputy told facility staff they could not lock Pleasant and Miller out of their designated apartments without proper court procedure.
Pleasant was served an eviction letter on June 28 for "violent criminal activity, threatening/aggressive behavior toward staff and other residents." Miller was given a letter the next day for "displayed behavior that indicates you no longer want to follow the rules, policies and procedures."
The men have a hearing in Mingo Magistrate Court on July 9, in which they said they would request a trial if necessary.
The men are placed inside Serenity Pointe on vouchers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A spokeswoman said last week HUD was reviewing the program with no timetable of completion. Pleasant and Miller said they have been straight and narrow since, fighting for the right to be in their apartments.
According to a letter written by Harness, both men are not allowed in "the community room, the smoking room on second floor, the lobby area or community room on first floor, or the smoking area outside."
Miller said this restriction has confined him to his apartment, and Pleasant said they only have microwavable food available to them without access to a stove.
The men wore signs around Williamson this weekend saying, "Serenity [Pointe] rehab won't feed me and won't let me use the kitchen to cook my food."
Harness did not return emails seeking comment on Monday. She did not respond to a list of questions given to her by a reporter last week.
In list of rules given to Miller last week, Harness appears to have added several new rules from month ago.
Among the new rules, "each resident should keep personal information within Serenity Pointe confidential and not discussed with outside persons." Violation of the rule could result in immediate termination.
Travis Crum is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He may be reached by phone at 304-236-3539.