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Albert Lea halfway house will close for lack of jobs

Associated Press

ALBERT LEA, Minn. -- The rules say the recovering addicts at the Fountain Centers halfway house must work, but since they haven't been able to find jobs in this southern Minnesota town the center will soon close.

"With a halfway house, the hope is that they'll transition into the community. Without employment they're out of luck," said Garth Barker, executive director of Fountain Centers. "Because of the employment situation in Albert Lea, the focus of the halfway house wasn't working."

The checkered past of some recovering drug addicts hurt their employment prospects, but the closing points to an odd economic indicator that other more prosperous cities, like Owatonna and Rochester, aren't feeling.

At the West Hills Lodge Alcohol and Drug Center in Owatonna, Director David Remmel said the factories in town leave entry level jobs open at places like Burger King and Applebee's for his clients.

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"Those that want to work find jobs. Those that don't want work don't," he said.

But he said that attitude toward clients wouldn't work in Albert Lea. With layoffs, entry-level jobs get snatched up by more qualified workers with better work histories.

Barker said the Albert Lea program will be replaced by a completely inpatient program, and people who would have been eligible for Fountain Center's halfway house will be referred elsewhere.

Barker said the program had worked well since it opened in 1997.

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