The opioid epidemic claims more than 100 lives each day across the country. After being clean for nearly eight years, a local pastor used his own experiences to help others.
Clifton Nobles told NewsChannel 6 he’s saved a lot of lives from drug and alcohol addiction through 143 Ministries. That’s a local church, rehabilitation and transition program.
Neighbors and community members, however, said they do not want addicts in residential areas.
But in fact, once people join the program, Pastor Nobles said those who once abused substances are no longer addicts. He gets them off drugs and back into their communities as better citizens. But he told us in every community he goes to, there is push back. He explained, it is actually a type of fear that something will go wrong.
“There would literally be hundreds of people in this community, in Richmond County, in Columbia County that are not receiving the help that we’re giving them,” Pastor Nobles said about all of his facilities.
The husband and father started a church to help get people off drugs and back into society. But shared with NewsChannel 6 that helping those who battle substance abuse has come with obstacles. People want him and the people he’s helping out of their neighborhoods.
He told us, “It’s happened in Richmond County. It’s happened in Jefferson County, It’s happened in Columbia County. It seems to be more of a mindset that’s not specific here, but it’s a mindset of fear about who we’re helping.”
We first told you about Pastor Nobles back in August during the special report From Drugs to Dreams. Through a rigorous, 12-step program that infuses Jesus Christ, he and his staff said they see everyday people who were doing wrong decide to live life for the Lord and absent drugs and crime.
“They’re in your neighborhoods, they’re in your churches, they’re in your schools, they’re serving your food, they are delivering services to your homes on a regular basis. And this is not when they’re with us,” he emphasized explaining drug addicts are already in neighborhoods and people do not realize it.
Nobles, who has properties all over the CSRA, said once people choose to get clean he screens them and moves them into one of his transition homes.
Neighbors near the 143 Ministries headquarters told us they would prefer a more traditional church, one that meets on Sundays, Wednesdays and the occasional wedding. They also support the church being torn down and a home built instead of 143 Ministries using the building on Ingleside Drive for a rehab, which they said it is not zoned to do.
One neighbor, Stan Leida, caught up with us while we were at the church. He said, “The rehab center should not be in this area. This is a family oriented area and I think that maybe they could go to a different location a lot less populated.”
But Nobles said he lives and works in Richmond and Columbia Counties. He said he and his wife, who works alongside him, along with staff do not feel it is beneficial to drive an hour out twice a day. Nobles also said a component of the program is to make sure that people getting help can work and attend court. Moving ‘where there are no neighbors’ as he said some have voiced, would be counterproductive to 143 Ministries.
Another neighbor, who chose to speak off camera, said, “…this is in no way a traditional church which is what the building is zoned for. The meetings they hold are strictly 12 step rehabilitation programs and not what you would expect from a traditional church.” She went on to tell us there were people bringing in items such as furniture, refrigerators and even a pool table, something the pastor said is for the youth.
She said she also is concerned about people staying overnight and even said she saw one person laying on the ground near her home.
That neighbor said, ” It has brought many concerns into our neighborhood, safety being a number one issue. The crowds and traffic this brings into a neighborhood is not what belongs in a residential neighborhood…” She told us she has spoken with the district commissioner and the planning and zoning department for the city.
Pastor Nobles said no one stays overnight and he invites people nearby to come inside and learn more about the work.
“These people are sisters, are mothers, are daughters, are sons, fathers. We’ve had attorneys live in our homes,” he said.
Sean Frantom is the commissioner for the district where neighbors are complaining about the headquarters. He said the people around the facility have had valid concerns with what is going on at the ministry. He said he has not had any complaints in the last month and he does not see how the commission can move 143 Ministries. Frantom also said the building is zoned for church services and Nobles said that is happening. He explained that 143 Ministries obtained its lease on a special exemption that did not come before the commission.
We will continue to follow this story.