Owner of Wheat Ridge sober living home defends mission; neighbors worry about impact

Monarch Sober Living calls home vital to recovery

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WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — Neighbors outraged over a sober living house were met with outrage from Denver7 viewers and readers who said the story vilified people trying to get clean and better their lives.

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The owner of Monarch Sober Living, Cali Ryczek, said she is used to push back because people often fail to understand what's going on inside her homes. 

She currently operates two other sober living homes in Lakewood, and the location in Wheat Ridge would be her third. 

Ryczek battled drug addiction and spent nine months in a sober living home. When she got clean, she decided to dedicate her life to helping others do the same.

"I'm a person in long-term recovery. Sober living was vital for my recovery because it was something more long-term than just treatment. I could learn to do the daily aspects of life and come home to an environment where I could talk to people who related to what I was going through," said Ryczek.

There's a desperate need for recovery services. Last year more people in Colorado died from drug overdoses than any other year in the state's history. 

According to the Colorado Health Institute, 959 people died of opioid-related overdose deaths in 2017.

The Wheat Ridge home just went through the final stages of the inspection process, and applicants are waiting to move it. The house could open as early as this weekend. 

Nearby neighbors contacted Denver7 after they learned about the home and wondered who would be living there. 

"This is not a neighborhood that should warrant something like that. And I don't think it's safe for people with children," said Elaine, who didn't want us to share her last name.

Other neighbors expressed concern about the number of people allowed to live there and the lack of parking. 

Denver7 brought some of those concerns to Ryczek who said she is happy to address those questions. 

She explained the house is not a rehab center and people are already sober when they move in. They must pass a urine test and breathalyzer. 

Eleven people, including a live-in house manager, will be in the home, and they must work, volunteer or go to school. 

Lastly, Monarch will not accept violent felons or sex offenders. 

"We've been very open with them. I haven't tried to hide anything at all," said Ryczek.

Ryczek wants to make sure sober living homes are better regulated. She currently serves on a state committee that is pushing for more oversight.

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