EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 23, 2014

'Haven of Hope'

Sober house planned for former Mount Carmel church site

METHUEN — In the past, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church was the site of christenings, weddings and even pick-up football games in the parking lot.

But the long-shuddered property is set to take on a second life as the “Haven of Hope,” a sober house for recovering female addicts.

A Peabody couple, Gary and Janet Hufnagle, purchased the 1.5 acre Mount Carmel property on Union Street and now plan to transform the convent building into a 25 to 28 bed privately-paid facility for women who are “on a road of recovering and healing,” according to an informational packet distributed by the couple.

Gary Hufnagle, a drug addict who has been clean for 15 years, said he “is not an entrepreneur. But a guy with a vision.”

The Hufnagles hosted a community meeting on Thursday evening in the former Mount Carmel church building.

Gary Hufnagle told the 40 people who attended that he wants neighbors and residents to know what’s going on with the property and realizes there are many emotions associated with the buildings. The couple, married 26 years with 4 children, said they have invested their life savings into the Haven of Hope project.

“We are here to make the property beautiful and give back some life,” Gary said. “It’s our way of giving back to humanity ... It takes a leap of faith to do it.”

The couple plans to give the convent a bed and breakfast style look and also add a gazebo and garden. Women who have gone through the detox process and lived in a halfway house could then apply to live in the Haven of Hope, which would be their last stop before transitioning back into the community, Gary explained.

Women living there would stay a minimum of 90 days or as long as year and must adhere to a variety of conditions, including curfews, maintaining a job or attending school and attending Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meetings. A variety of courses will be offered to the women and all staff members will have an extensive background in recovery and running a sober living facility.

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