The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on January 3, 1986 · Page 32
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 32

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Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Friday, January 3, 1986
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Page 32
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The Salina Journal Friday, January 3,1986 PageNS Drunken drivers sentenced to spend time on skid row PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - At 8:30 Saturday morning in Portland's Old Town, the homeless have been turned out of the night shelters. The alcoholics who spent the night on damp sidewalks are beginning to look for their first drink. In a 24-hour restaurant that occupies the first floor of a run-down hotel where tenants pay by the week, six outsiders are ordering breakfast. Like many of the people who live in Burnside, just north of downtown, these six men have problems with alcohol. They're here today because they drink and drive — day in and day out, they drink and drive. Multnomah County District Judge Frank L. Bearden calls them "judgmental drinkers" — those who habitually stop by the bar on the way home from work. Bearden and the county's other district judges have begun sentencing such men and women to spend weekends among the destitute. The worst of their weekend neighbors are getting sick in the streets. They relieve themselves on parked cars or on the sidewalks. Many can barely lurch into a corner market for another bottle of fortified wine. The six convicted drunken drivers spent Friday night in the Everett, an alcohol-free hotel where men and women enrolled in programs developed by Burnside Projects, a local charitable agency, live together while they try to break the cycle of dependency. The six are trying to break a habit — drinking and driving — that costs thousands of Americans their lives every year. They pay $80 to come here, to a program called Project Awareness, instead of spending the weekend in county jail. About 25 people have gone through Project Awareness since it began in mid- October. Electric Start SNO-BURST® SNOWBLOWER 5460.95 <*WW • Powerful Jacobsen 2-cycle engine. 3 H.P. •Power Burst; feature for quick switching to maximum power mode • Big 20" clearing width •Throws snow up to 18 feet • Electric start BARRAGREE RENT-ALL 1500 S. Broadway 827-0847 or 827-5011 WE TRADE ! Doily: 7 30 AW-6:OOPM Sunday: 12:30 PM-5:30 PM "You have to realize that you're an alcoholic," says one, "and face up to it." Oregon's are among the toughest drunken driving laws in the nation. First offenders are sentenced to an alcohol diversion program that lasts six months to a year and their drivers' licenses are suspended for three months to a year. Second offenders are evaluated and ordered to enter another treatment program; their licenses are suspended for as much as three years. They face a minimum mandatory fine of $300, but fees and court costs can push the total to $1,500 or more. They have the option of serving a minimum of 80 hours in community service or a minimum of 48 hours in jail. Bearden said a "creative" definition of jail written into the law opened the way for Project Awareness. The problem drinker who spends the weekend among the down and out, he said, is given something to think about. "It's that type of person I think this program might have some effect on," Bearden said. "We're not going to cure the chronic alcoholic, but two days in jail isn't either." The program also reduces the pressure on jails in the Portland metropolitan area, where Bearden said space was as "precious as platinum." The six men enrolled in Project Awareness this December weekend are supervised by Harold Miller, who works the rest of the week as graveyard shift supervisor of the Burnside Projects night shelter on Everett Street. Miller splits the six up after breakfast, sending two to shampoo carpets at an area hotel and setting the others to work looking up telephone numbers for fund-raisers seeking donations for Burnside Projects. Lunch is at the Blanche! House, a steamy soup kitchen where the meal is greasy vegetable soup, dressing that looks and tastes like cardboard, pasta salad, sausage, french fries and Hostess pies. Five of the six eat in silence and watch as the regulars tuck plastic bags filled with leftovers under their belts. The sixth passes up lunch and waits outside for the others. In the afternoon, the group goes to the Beaver Hotel, where members of a church group are already at work on the third floor, damaged recently in a fire. The hotel needs plenty of work, but the manager is not ready for the group. After scrubbing a couple of bathtubs and scraping paint from a second-floor ceiling damaged by water, the men return to the telephone books. Sunday afternoon, the men are finishing the task. By now, it's been 48 hours or more since they've had a drink. One man's hands shake as he writes down telephone numbers. After dinner, ordered "to go" from the Sisters of the Road Cafe down the street, Miller opens a group counseling session that marks the end of the weekend. He goes over a sheet the men filled out at the start. On it, they outlined the extent of their drinking problems, detailing their drinking habits and the impact alcohol has had on their lives. They listen in silence as Miller runs THE JEAN STATION iiiifiii iiiiiefi Regular Priced Merchandise ENTIRE STOCK INCLUDED ALL SALES FINAL NO EXCHANGES »NO REFUNDS «NO LA YAW AYS MID STATE MALL, SAUNA through the list of problems linked to alcohol abuse — loss of memory, traffic accidents, divorce, quick tempers, fighting, inappropriate sexual behavior, arrest, dismissal from jobs, financial difficulties, uncontrollable emotions, depression, suicide. "We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the drinking," says one. "We're here for drunk driving." They discuss a second sheet intended to measure their understanding of alcoholism. One man, the one who skipped ^lunch at the Blanchet House on Saturday, has been through intensive alcohol treatment programs in the past. He says alcoholism is a disease — a disease like cancer that kills slowly, but he says the battle against alcoholism is more difficult because "cancer isn't sociable. Alcohol is — and so are drugs." Another man, a retiree who says his problems with alcohol intensified after his wife's death, says treatment is not a simple task. "I think you have to treat the whole system — like being down here and seeing what's happened to others who have alcohol problems." He's taking a drug intended to reduce his craving for alcohol and says he is determined to break his dependency. "Drunk driving is a very dangerous thing," Miller says. "People don't remember that it happened. They don't remember that they took a life—or a couple of lives. "Think about what's happening to you. If you need help, get it." Those who designed the program say it's too early to try to measure its success — and they have no illusions, about its potential. But every two weeks, the program gets six to eight people who don't need to be in a jail cell and would benefit from a more constructive environment, said Burnside Projects director Jean DeMaster. "There needs to be an experience they have that has a better chance of changing their lives," DeMaster said, "an experience that says, 'You have to do something different, or you're just like other criminals or like bums on the street.'" With overcrowded jails and nearly 4,000 drunken driving arrests in Multnomah County this year, said Bearden, alternatives are worth the effort. Hundreds of readers check the classified ads every day. Phone 8236363 and an ad-taker will help with your ad. Jam** W«av«r 412 E. 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