Sanctuaryhouse12's Blog

Drug addiction and what I’ve found on the subject
August 2, 2013, 7:00 pm
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I have been asked to please continue blogging by many readers, concerned that my schedule for this has been somewhat lacking.  So, with that said, I’ll begin a regular schedule about emerging patterns and unhealthy habits … and even sometimes the extraordinary steps that addicts will go to, to continue injecting, while claiming ignorance about the facts.

After a five-year tenure as Sanctuary House’s Executive Director, it has given unique insights into tall-tale signs of an addict using,  I hope to share, each week, more of the signs, suggestions to some of the questions asked of us, as a long-term sober living facility and the adaptation of our hands-on approach.

Fist and foremost, as the father of two grown sons, a short message to parents.

If your child, whether he be 16 or 65 has more than a peckish flirtation with drugs, then the strategy for intervention is very different and often comes with a realization that the “continued financial assistance” is NOT helping, but rather giving the addict a temporary reprieve from responsibility or accountability. This is a vicious cycle that will continue until the parent is at their wits end or something major in the situation that forces the problem to the forefront, usually serious injury or death.

Sometimes, as parents, we are forced to admit that with the best of intentions for our children, tough decisions must be made.  In some cases, the decision to allow your child to hit bottom is as painful for the parent as the child.  My message first goes to mothers.

All mothers are incredible gifts to the world.  You endure incredible pain to bring life to your son/daughter and it is a pain that a mother must make for the sake of her family.  The same holds true to save the life of that child.  The painful, but necessary step often will be a pivotal moment in the difference in the destruction of the addiction or the destruction of the child, never knowing the missed opportunities that come with a child that has beaten this plague.

If the primary goal of any parent is to save their child and if early intervention is no longer an option, the addict finds himself caught up in a system that is driven by the amount of insurance that the addict has, rather than the level of care needed to assist in preventing relapse after relapse, transforming the 30-day rehab into an “alternate plan” when things don’t go as the actively using addict expects.  This, without a doubt leads to an expectation that 5, 10, even more visits is simply a part of the process, while precious time is lost and deterioration of the addict’s physical health, as well a steady march into increased psychological/mental issues that continue, if left unchecked.

Please feel free to ask your questions, online.  Meanwhile I’ll continue to share valuable information from the “front lines” of the battle for lives in the war of addiction.  Please feel free to visit our website to donate, to continue our mission of saving children and those that seek help.

Jared C. Cashner, CCR

Executive Director

Sanctuary House of S. Florida, Inc.

a 501(c)(3) organization serving those in need.

116 NW 25th Street

Wilton Manors, FL 33311


The long road to The Sanctuary



Insert: Jared Cashner and James Sanzeri, founders of Sanctuary House of South Florida
Insert: Jared Cashner and James Sanzeri, founders of Sanctuary House of South Florida

Wilton Manors Couple Opens Center for LGBT Alcoholics, Drug Addicts


After five years of struggling, one couple manages to turn an abandoned building into a promising recovery center for the LGBT community.

They’re sitting next to each other in a crack house, holding hands. Their matching engagement rings glisten — the same engagement rings they pawned off five years ago when they decided to buy that crack house.

Over the years, Jared Cashner and James Sanzeri have sold their car, emptied out their retirement funds, and pawned their engagement rings all to keep and maintain a property at the corner of North Andrews Avenue and NW 25 Street.

They called it the Sanctuary House.

Their goal in opening the Sanctuary House of South Florida was to provide a safe and stable environment for men and women in the LGBT community struggling with drug or alcohol abuse.

The Sanctuary House takes in people who want to recover from drug and alcohol abuse and offers them recovery meetings, therapy sessions, organized doctor visits, and a place to call home.

Cashner walks a brick path through a garden leading towards the front of the Sanctuary House. A large tree with branches stretching over the walkway drops bright, pink flowers into a little pond. There are gardens everywhere, practically around every corner. Cashner loves the garden setting. They make the Sanctuary House seem tranquil.

He takes a seat on the porch swing on top of the marble floors and rocks back and forth.

It’s hard to believe that a little less than five years ago, this was not at all how his sanctuary looked.

With cracked floors, broken down walls, and no doors, this abandoned building became a ground for squatters and drug dealers.

“It was a nightmare when we first bought it,” Cashner said.

Cashner and Sanzeri purchased the abandoned property in December 2008 and turned it into a promising recovery center. It began with just three clients. It has since grown to a volunteer staff of 13 and up to 41 clients at a time. The Sanctuary House managed to raise $250,000 in 2012.

“We’ve come a long way since the broken down property we first bought,” Cashner said.

Wayne Campanele takes a seat next to Cashner on the porch swing. Campanele has been a client at the Sanctuary House since March 2012. He has been in and out of rehab centers since he was 13 years old. This is the first time he feels at home.

“And I didn’t even mean to come here,” he said. Campanele’s drug abuse problems got him into trouble. A judge told him that he could either go to jail or enter into a program. Cashner stood up in the courtroom and raised his hand, “I’ll take him,” he said.

“I couldn’t let him go to jail,” Cashner reminisces. “I know how hard it is, so I had to be the parent with the steel-toed boots.”

The minimum stay for a client at the Sanctuary House is four months, but most clients stay an average of a year, according to Cashner.

“This is the best I’ve ever been in,” Campanele said. Cashner leans forward and pats Campanele on the shoulder.

“I’m signing Wayne here up for classes tomorrow morning,” Cashner said with a wide smile. Campanele is planning to attend beauty school.

“I feel motivated,” Campanele said. “Like I have a purpose.”

Cashner hopes that every client leaves the Sanctuary House with a job or ready to start school. The most important thing is that they have something waiting for them when they leave.

“If you want to take classes, I will help you,” Cashner said. “Don’t worry about money. I will find a way. You can believe that.”

Cashner stands up and begins walking a brick path around the Sanctuary House, through a fence and more gardens. He shows off the poolside area, situated perfectly under the shade of multiple palm trees and fully furnished. That’s not how it looked five years ago.

In December of 2008, the cracked concrete of a hollowed out pool was buried in the shadows of a large, yellow bulldozer. No trees. No furniture. The city was planning on knocking down what is now Cashner’s sanctuary.

“It was the most unattractive building in the neighborhood,” Cashner described it. And he wanted it.

To Cashner, it wasn’t just a crack house; it was a project. It was taking this decrepit, old house, a breeding ground for bad habits, and turning it into a safe place — into a home.

The couple bought their sanctuary before it was destroyed, but it was hardly habitable.

“The place was so bad when we first got it that it took me and James two months with a metal detector to find all the needles buried in the rubble,” Cashner said.

They did the repairs themselves and still do to this day along with managing the business end of the Sanctuary House.

“If there’s a leak in the house, it comes down to me and a plumber’s wrench,” Cashner said.

It took years to clean every apartment in the house and make all of the repairs. There are still a few repairs, as Cashner points out. A few doors jam and the roof needs work done — everything seems minor in comparison to the first repairs.

“Once we got the first big hurdles out the way, it was easy,” Sanzeri said. “We still keep busy, but we’re dedicated and we love it.”

Cashner pointed out a building across the road while speaking with SFGN. A few weeks ago, he recognized a drug dealer in the nearby building. As a 49-year-old retired court reporter, Cashner works closely with local police and local courts. He had the man removed from the building by police, simply by pointing him out..

“I had him out of there so quick,” Cashner chuckled.

“See this,” he said pointing at a bench in the gardens just behind the main building of the property. It was a gray marble bench engraved “Joseph ‘Buddy’ Sanzeri,” in memory of Sanzeri’s older brother who died at the age of 15 from drug abuse.

“I’ll be damned if I ever let a drug dealer anywhere near this property,” Cashner said.

Sanzeri struggled from drug abuse himself. The 24-year -old has been in recovery for more than five years.

“It’s more than personal to me,” Sanzeri said. “My brother died from drugs. There aren’t many places for these people to go.”

Now he pours all of his time and effort into giving others the chance that his brother never got. If it’s up to him, he’ll be doing this “forever.”

Cashner and his late husband of 18 years adopted a son, who was born to a mother with severe drug and alcohol abuse problems.

“I knew how he was born. I knew he had drugs and alcohol in his system from birth,” Cashner said. “But he was mine the minute they put him in my arms and I knew that, too.”

Both partners have reason to feel close to this cause — close enough that they’ve only taken a total of nine days off in the last five years, they said.

“Someone said to me once ‘you’re not an alcoholic, you’re a workaholic,’” Cashner said laughing.

There are three buildings. The biggest is the main building where the gay men in recovery stay. The couple opened two more for lesbian women, and transgender clients.

He opens the door to one room in the main building. It looked just like the others, furnished with a pull-out couch, small coffee table, and TV.  But this room was different. It was Cashner and Sanzeri’s home when they opened the Sanctuary House.

They spent all of their money and time on the Sanctuary House and ended up living in it with the clients for almost a year.

The couple didn’t intend to open the Sanctuary House, it was a “happy accident,” as Cashner calls it.

One rainy night in November 2008, the couple had a friend who struggled with substance abuse come to them with nowhere to go. They rented an apartment for him and helped him get back on his feet. The friend spoke at a recovery meeting and told others Cashner and Sanzeri brought him.

“It had a snowball effect,” Sanzeri said. “We weren’t just getting one or two calls about clients. It was more.”

Before they knew it, the Sanctuary House that could hold only three clients grew to house up to 41 clients.

“We’re planning on expanding the back end of the property to make room for more bed space,” Cashner said.

With Cashner’s close relationships to local judges and the police department, he gets calls constantly asking if they have room for just one more client.

The Sanctuary House grew rapidly, and before Cashner could see it coming, so did the bills. The couple sold what they could to keep the Sanctuary afloat, including their engagement rings, before their luck began to turn around.

They began receiving private donations from community members that wanted to support the cause. In September 2012, the couple opened a thrift shop just two blocks away from the Sanctuary House. All of the proceeds from the thrift store go towards funding for the Sanctuary House. According to Cashner, the thrift store makes about $8,000 a month.

With all of the money coming in from donations and the thrift store, Cashner and Sanzeri are able to offer bed space at the Sanctuary House to clients for $17.36 per day.

More people also volunteered their time to the cause as it grew. The Sanctuary built a staff of 13 unpaid volunteers. People like Eliana Dole volunteered their time.

Dole has been volunteering with the Sanctuary for over three weeks now, as their newest volunteer. She wandered into the Sanctuary House Thrift Store one day and immediately fell in love with the cause.

“When they told me about what they were doing, I thought it was incredible,” Dole said. Dole helps run the thrift store with Sanzeri.

“They just want to help others and it’s amazing,” Dole said. “If I can help someone to not hurt anymore, then I will.”

The Sanctuary House was recently recognized as a public charity in late April. The couple applied two years ago in order to work with other nonprofits and become eligible to apply for grants.

“Now, we’re in talks about upcoming grants,” Cashner said. He’s more hopeful now than ever.

Cashner doubles back to the front of the Sanctuary House. He fiddles with the engagement ring on his left hand, twisting around his ring finger. The couple bought the pawned rings back years ago. They’re getting married at the end of June in Long Island.

“We’re finally going to take a vacation,” Cashner said laughing.

He reminisces on the changes endured since they first pawned the rings off.

“There were no toilets in the space,” Cashner laughed. “The first year was spent making it habitable. The second was spent making it beautiful. Now, it truly is a sanctuary.”

For more information about the Sanctuary House of S. Florida, visit

For questions about bed space at the Sanctuary House or to make a donation, contact Jared Cashner or (954) 882-8363.

2010Sanctuary House Brochure outside2010Sanctuary House Brochure inside

Sanctuary House of S. Florida Thrift Store and gardens are now open

Sanctuary House, with the help of our local community, has opened our thrift store and gardens.  The gardens will double as a place to shop or for locals to “hide out” from the world for an hour or so.  Enjoy our free wi-fi, lounge about the gardens with a book from our library of selections, with a hot cup of tea; or shop in our store for those unique gifts that the Sanctuary Thrift  are becoming known for.

In addition, starting February 7th, the gardens will become Bingo under the starts, hosted by the nationally known bingo caller Ms. Sandy Bottoms, all the way from North Carolina, with themed evenings; and a show that you’ll talk about over and over.

This week’s theme is Beach Blanket Bingo

Enjoy her commercial

Beach blanket bingo

See ya at Bingo!!

just a thought that came to mind.

With all the success that our facility continues to enjoy, we are reminded, from time-to-time, that it would not always be the case. Today, sadly, we lost a client….not to death, but rather to new psychotropic drugs “on the fly”, without titration and coupled with a sudden impulse to inject anabolic steroids. The result was “roid-rage” that made it impossible to do anything but watch, in sadness, as the client that we’ve worked so hard to help choose to begin this long state of hardship all over again, Walter, I wish you well and hope for the best.
J & J

Sanctuary House of S. Florida, Inc.

a safe place for gay men in recovery

Addiction recovery for gay men, the process, the hurdles, and achievements (continued)

I woke this morning, wondering if anyone will find something positive in the words that I write or the thoughts shared.  What do I say next, what’s important?

At that point, one of the most important chapters will include, in the book I’ve mulled over for more than a year, the issue of enabling the addict to prolong the agony for not only the using addict, but for those closest to the client, the family.

Mothers are taken hostage by their sons who claim to use suicide or harm to themselves if money or phone bills are not paid.  Some will go to extremes of outrageous behavior.  One such example would be the addict, calling from a local hospital, usually with his “using” partner to make a call to the unsuspecting parents requesting money, as they are told that their son is in the emergency room and in need of money for medications needed at discharge, claiming dire consequences if the demand is not met.

As a father of two boys, my heart understands the pull of … love for your child and grappling with the decision of what’s in my child’s best interest, usually ending in a Western Union money order being picked up; and the two addicts are off the drug dealer again, leaving mind that the cost of the deception reaches far beyond the money order to include the cost of the emergency room visit that inevitably will, again, cost the tax payer thousands, for nothing more than a con perpretrated by the addict.


As we work each day, Sanctuary House is reminded that outside influences can, at time, make the job of assisting clients in recovery difficult, if not impossible, if those doing the enabling are unwilling to display tough love or intervene, when it comes to the finances of the addict.

First and foremost would the Social Security Administration, responsible for “reloading the pistol” with funds distributed and allowing the active addict money, to be taken by drug dealers and usually, gone within days of receiving it.  At this point, the addict is left with little or no options in the areas of housing, feeding themselves and often committing crimes to “re-up” funds to last the usual 24 to 27 days before the next Social Security check, for the following month, arrives.

I have come to the conclusion that there are three types of actively using gay addicts.  In all three types of addicts, one thing is always in common.  Given enough time and money, the addict is no longer able to turn on that magical button that produces two necessary elements of real recovery, honesty and empathy for others.  In many cases, it does not matter whether the victim of the addict is a total stranger or a grandmother.

Many addicts, with a steady stream of funds, have no real incentive to make change, even when becoming involved in the legal system, usually aa a result of arrest.  Quickly, the family is there to produce bond, without thinking about the results of their actions.  Often, the result is right back to “people, places, and things” that caused the problem in the first place and continues to do so.

Even though I’ve done no investigation as the the amount of tax payer money being lost, due to this system in place with Social Security, I am reminded of a former clients, who’s SS check was in excess of $1,300.,   This client calls for an ambulance for a nonexistent emergency, simply because he did not wish to spend the $9.00 for a taxi.  When confronted by our office, the client simply shrugged it off as something he was entitled to, no matter the cost.  His reason for going?  He doubled up on narcotic medication and began the monthly search for new avenues of narcotics since the supply had been depleted, under the guise of a slip and fall, yet the client simply stood up from a chair on the porch and simply walked up and into the ambulance.  For the sake of animenity, we will call him “Stacy”.  Stacy would, upon SS payday, head for multiple pharmacies to purchase as many opiates as possible, often exhausting much of the funds, only to turn around and sell them at a profit, bringing the pain of addiction to those attempting to free themselves of the burden.

Another example would be a man in his twenties, after a 30-day rehab, usually from a family of some means, will convince the parents that continued after care in a sober living facility is necessary, only to have them pay for airline fares, the first month in the facility, and funds to sustain them; and will, from the first day of arrival, disappear to begin the month long vacation in South Florida, drinking, drugging, and refusing to answer calls from worried parents or the facility that had just checked them into the establishment 24 hours previous.

And the last group that I refer to as the endless victim, coming into the office claiming, upon initial arrival, everything from just being robbed to the loss of funds, where the addict cannot explain the disappearance.  Begging for help and fear of being homeless, only to use the admission to find “roommates” from the selection of clients at the facility, working on their own process.  This ALWAYS results in two or more clients, depending on each other to pay for the rented house, only to have, usually a senior from the group, paying the majority.  The senior is preyed upon, in the sober facility setting, being promised a wonderful life, with all the amenities that come from the new adventure.  Every situation that this office has witnessed, to date, has resulted in the senior being robbed of everything and left to fend for themselves and the roommates spending the collected funds in bathhouses, bars, or anywhere drugs may be obtained.

One example would be a man we will call “Michael”.  This was a client that had chosen to spend more than a decade playing the circuit boy routine in South Beach, Florida, cruising bars for drugs and victims, often couch surfing, looking for any opportunity to take from others.  Since I had no idea of this client’s history and the fact that he completed the first step, rehab, he was interviewed by our staff and given safe harbor, after driving the 40 mile round trip to assist the client in the transition from one county to another.  Literally, from day one, the client began attempting to build a coalition of clients to move, in secret, taking anyone that had the funds to place him in a new environment, where a new field of victims awaited.  When confronted about the situation, again the client felt perfectly within his right to do whatever it took to advance himself, even if the people involved in the scheme would be devistated by the enterprise.

That brings me to the next group of addicts, those that are firmly entrenched in the notion that they are entitled to all things needed for life, while returning to bars drinking, partying …. and I use the word “partying” loosely, to look for victims that are unsuspecting of the predator sitting on the bar stool right next to them.

The last of the group are the “get it at all costs” addicts.  With them, anything goes.  Prostitution, stealing, begging on street corners.  If it is one of the lucky one’s, those with a stream of monthly cash, if removed from the structure of a legitimate structured sober living facility, such as the non-profit house that Sanctuary House provides, the addict will simply check themselves into the nearest hospital, for housing, until the hospital discharges upon denial of any further care on the part of the insurance company or worse, from an agency that pays these bills, usually the tax payer.

If the client is discharged from the hospital prematurely, meaning before the new check arrives, they will simply find a new hospital, claiming a new illness and be admitted, effectively turning the hospital into a hotel with charges far beyond the cost of the most expensive public lodging, anywhere.  Days before payday, the addict will call and request housing from yet another sober facility, only to begin the cycle again.

Since I have more to share, in this story, please check back for more information.

Jared C. Cashner, CCR

Executive Director,

Sanctuary House of S. Florida, Inc.

a non-profit organization

Addiction recovery for gay men, the process, the hurdles, and achievements

Sanctuary House will begin its fourth year, as of December 28th, serving the gay community in the areas of housing, case management services, and advocacy in legal matters, involving drug charges and in many aspects of recovery, including new clients from treatment centers around the world.

My name is Jared Cashner, CCR, a retired court stenographer for the criminal courts in our circuit,  The original idea of creating a safe place for men in recovery was made obvious as I continued to see repeats of defendants making the rounds within my courtrooms.  Often, after being placed in housing in halfway house situations, with little or no accountability, the conditions often created an atmosphere of hostility and at times, violence.  In most court systems, when placed on a “pretrial housing situation”, simply coming into contact with law enforcement, usually after an attack in the housing environment, the defendant would simply be violated and placed “back to ground zero” in the criminal justice system.  The continuous fear and intimidation would also lead to the defendant absconding, also bringing the defendant back to the jail system.  In other words, the deck is mostly and usually stacked against the gay defendant.

My answer to a continuous problem developed as I entered the final stages of my own career. But before I begin the story of the journey into Sanctuary House’s history, perhaps a bit about my partner, James, and I and how this need to create and build what has now become a safe haven for our guys.

I was born one of MANY children from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  As a young gay man, living in a place that could have devastating results, had my “secret” been revealed, as high school graduation commenced, I knew it was time to move on.  I found myself, ultimately, in the Great State of Georgia, 19 years old and on my own for the first time.  Within months of my arrival, I met a handsome man, named Sam, who would later turn out to be a 17 year love affair, before loosing him suddenly.  During those years, my interest in addiction and its effects on people was born as a Department of Human Resource professional, Miss Mary, placed my newborn foster son, Marc, in my arms.  As my son lay screaming and tormented by the pains of withdraw, it placed a feeling of need-for-change within me, to one day leave the sideline of this epidemic in order to work, first hand, in its field.  During those years, we went on to foster 13 additional children, those the State deemed “undesirable”.  I loved them all.  Within the first year, my son was officially mine and all the responsibilities that come with a couple adopting a “special needs child”.  I preferred to call him my miracle.

My partner, James and I met in the Fall of 2008.  He, like myself, had been touched close to home by the tragedy that is drug addiction.  As a young boy, the baby of two, he witnessed the despair of grieving parents informed that their older son, Buddy, was dead at the age of 15, as a result of drugs; and leaving James the only child of two people who I now call mom and dad, my in-laws.   In the beginning of this journey was a new and loving relationship, coupled with a desire, from day one, to start what would become a passion of learning, insight, and an ever-growing need to be hands-on.

So, now, the journey begins.

Sanctuary House began modestly enough with the lease option and eventual purchase of three run-down buildings on an acre, located in Wilton Manors, Florida.  When first opening, I had no idea what I was in for, nor had a clue of the increased work load dealing with gay men in recovery as opposed to any other segment of our community.  But then again, that was to be the model and for James and I, simply a “learn-as-you-go” process.

Upon opening, days after Christmas 2008, our humble beginnings were that of 6 beds, collection of mismatched furniture and an uncertainty of the endeavor.  Even though the property contained a total of seven apartments, the buildings had fallen into such disrepair, by a lack of care, that most had no windows, toilets, kitchens or the necessities of living. What the lack of care had not done, Hurricane Wilma had completed the picture, leaving a property that soon became infested with drug dealers, ladies of the evening,and squatters looking for shelter from the outdoors.

As we cannibalized  the apartments, going room to room, collecting items to put together two of the units quickly exhausted most materials needed to complete the next.  For the first time since childhood, working in garden with my mother, I found myself not in a suit and tie, as had been the case through most of my career and back into old jeans, laying water lines, pouring concrete, and shuffling through second-hand warehouses looking for bathroom sinks.

In the beginning, both James and I worked a second job, each, to pay the bills for our new home and have enough to begin the tumultuous task of taking on another unit, as the demand for our housing continued to increase, faster than the demand for our help.  Slowly, our bed capacity began to grow, as well as the work load.  Before long six beds turned into 40, with a never ending need for more.

From the onset, it was decided that if our facility was to make a real difference in the lives of those we serve, then certain obstacles had to be removed, such as emergency food, clothing, and transportation.  With those difficulties removed, the job of recovery could begin.

However, the biggest obstacle was not from our surroundings, but rather from within.  During the first year, what we would come to call “professional halfway house hoppers” began to call, requesting assistance.  Since we are the only one of our kind in the State of Florida, many seemed to gravitate to our program.

As we quickly discovered, those “hoppers” had made a career of moving from house to house, looking for individuals to victimize by taking from the weak and then, when confronted, would move on, showing up at local meeting houses claiming terrible housing conditions, bed bugs that did not exist, or that the staff of volunteers working to assist them were doing unspeakable things, including using drugs, simply for being expelled for attempting to pass drugs within the facility that still laid incomplete.  As a result of this deception, on the hopper’s part, some potential clients were weary of entering the Sanctuary, due to negative comments that simply were not true and the end result would be marginal client capacity, making that second job more important than ever.  Oddly enough, those same people, having exhausted all other options, would return very apologetic  and requesting re-admittance; and for us, being the new “kid” on the block during that first year, we would attempt, repeatedly, to break through the ice of these clients, after returning, usually without success. But with all the disadvantages, James and I were committed to assist the one’s that really needed the structure and guidance to leave behind a world of despair to break through the problems and move towards a life free of such a burden and rejoin the “land of the living”.

Since this blog is part and parcel to an upcoming book, aptly named “Halfway There”, please follow upcoming additions to our blog and I will continue to tell this story.  Some chapters will focus on problem solving and some of the more colorful characters that have passed over our threshold.

Jared Cashner, CCR

Executive Director

Sanctuary House of S. Florida, Inc.

a non-profit housing organization for gay men in recovery.

The beginning of my weekly blog.

Good morning, South Florida,

Today seemed an appropriate time to begin working on my new blog, offering information that I hope will provoke thought and debate on the issues of addiction and recovery, with emphasis on the gay community.  But first, a quick introduction.  My name is Jared Cecil Cashner, CCR; and I am the Executive Director of Sanctuary House of S. Florida, Inc., a non-profit sober living facility for  men in recovery.  This week, we closed on the property, gardens, and buildings that have housed Sanctuary House for more than 3.5 years.  With all of the support from both private and public entities, we made it.  The staff of the Sanctuary humbly thank you and we look forward to continue to grow from our 34 bed facility to more space, as the demand for help ever increases.

Sanctuary House began in December of 2008.  As a retiring court reporter in the 17th Judicial Circuit of my state, I found that many members of my own community were reoccurring defendants within the various courtrooms that I would sit for.  Even though, as was in many cases, the defendants were first-time, non-violent offenders that now must learn, quickly, the dangers of being swallowed up in the vast expanse of the legal system.   With respect to gay defendants, being placed in housing conditions that place preemptive strikes that reduce success, is a contributing factor for “revisiting” The Court.  Within a short period of time, a single offense can develop into a turnstile of newly developing problems.

Violence was often the case and both parties are punished equally, even though being gay was often the defendant’s only crime.  I would know, for a brief moment in my life, I was that defendant.

Placing gay and straight men, in close quarters, as is the case in many areas of the country, produces a level of discomfort for both men, in my opinion, that places the first obstacle to move beyond the criminal justice system, not to mention beginning a life absent of drugs and alcohol.  One of our Circuit Court judges once made the comment, “Your place is an idea born out of necessity”.   We couldn’t agree more.

For that reason, the Sanctuary House was born.   This is our story and how we’ve evolved into a unique place of peace for people that have come and gone and the constant lessons learned.  I hope you find this new blog both entertaining and informative.  Stay tuned and stay clean, life is just damn better that way.

Jared C. Cashner, CCR

Sanctuary House of S. Florida, Inc.

A place of peace for gay men in recovery

Another day at Sanctuary House, in Wilton Manors (Ft Lauderdale)

At the Sanctuary House, we are committed to providing a safe, caring and sober environment for men in recovery. We are committed to improving the lives of individuals who are ready to return to independence and to providing them with structure, stability; and the tools and confidence needed to live a life absent of alcohol and drug dependency. It is our goal to create awareness in the community through education and prevention programs and to maintaining the highest level of fiscal responsibility in all areas of service.


The Sanctuary House was founded in 2008 by Jared Cashner, a retired 17-year criminal court reporter and James Sanzeri, who saw the need for a transitional living facility specifically for men, with emphasis on gay men and their unique needs, after the death of his only sibling, at age 15, from drugs.  Now, he works to save lives.

The Sanctuary House sits on a sprawling acre of land in the heart of Wilton Manors, one of South Florida’s most heavily populated gay areas. It is made up of three buildings and can currently house 28 individuals. The facilities offer apartment-style living in a serene, tropical landscaped environment. Residents receive weekly random drug testing, nearby case management services, client advocacy, and HIV testing and counseling. Partnered with local hospitals and other non-profit groups, the Sanctuary House provides assistance to men with HIV and other health and mental health issues.

Constantly growing to meet the ever-changing needs of the community, the Sanctuary House now operates an emergency Food Bank, and provides a variety of education and prevention programs as well as support groups.  This what we do.

Something to celebrate

From the Desk of Jared Cashner, CCR, N.P.

It’s hard to believe that Sanctuary House is coming up on our third year assisting our community and to date, more than 160 men, since opening in December 2008.  As the only gay sober living facility in Florida, we’ve worked to improve the lives of those who simply have had enough of drugs and alcohol.  This pilot program has re-written the format by which many have taken notice at the innovative approach taken in the logistics of our program.  Additionally, Sanctuary House of S. Florida is proud to finally announce the purchase of our fourth building that will be dedicated to our lesbian community, again, attempting to impact another segment of our diverse community.  Sanctuary House is much more than a halfway house, but rather home to more than 40 members of the gay community.

Relapse prevention and those making a difference

The Hammer And Nails Of Sanctuary House
Tuesday, 23 November 2010 15:33 Written by Tony Adams
Have you ever pawned your wedding rings to pay someone else’s electric bill? Have you ever sold your beloved ’02 Thunderbird to house the homeless? Have you ever exhausted your retirement cash to continue your community service? There are two guys in Wilton Manors who can answer yes to those questions and have pawned their rings twice to keep 116 NW 25th Street afloat. In a town dedicated to dazed relaxation, there is much to admire in Jared Cashner, a retired court stenographer and son of a Kentucky coal miner, and James Sanzeri, a strikingly handsome 21 year old local man wise beyond his age, who have been a couple for two and one half years and are the founders and operators of the two year old Sanctuary House, a transitional residence providing sober and safe living for gay men in recovery.
Sanctuary House, one of the oldest structures in Wilton Manors and recently an abandoned crack house, is now a sprawling and comfortable collection of buildings on an acre of land that is divided into apartments each housing two or three men in shared bedrooms with common kitchens, baths, living space, gardens and a pool. Jared and James, who operate Sanctuary House without any other staff, live on the filled-to-capacity premises and are constantly forced to turn away applicants due to lack of space. (The size of the property would allow for the construction of several additional apartments should funds ever materialize.)
Jared and James are committed to helping gay men who are ready to return to independence and to providing them with structure, stability and the tools and confidence needed to live a life without alcohol and drug dependency. The minimum stay is three months and there are rules.
How and why would a retired stenographer and his very young partner, neither or whom have formal training as counselors or care-givers, establish a vibrant place like Sanctuary House? Jared explains “We had a friend who was down and out but willing to do some work for us. We were hesitant about inviting him to live in our home but rented him an apartment on NW 25th Street. He knew other men who had been through addiction and asked us if we could help them as well. We kept renting more space. That is how it began. Now we are partners with the Wilton Manors police, and with the local community service agencies, and with our residents’ case managers.”
Sanctuary House has rapidly grown by word of mouth among gay men needing assistance, and is such a desirable place to be that some straight men have falsely claimed to be gay trying to gain admission.
Jared and James approached the owners of the building, Steven and Andy Fisk of CitiFirst Mortgage of Hollywood, who helped them acquire it. Jared is grateful to them for their assistance. “They told us to give them whatever down payment we could manage and to make whatever monthly payments we could manage. They are extremely understanding about our circumstances, and they – and the whole neighborhood – are delighted with the transformation of the property.”
Some additional prying was needed to get these self-effacing men to discuss their personal lives that are the skeleton keys to Sanctuary House.
Jared fell into drug addiction following the hospitalization that led to his early retirement, and eventually was tried before a judge for whom he had once worked. She gave him back his life and he has kept his promise to stay clean. “I grew up in a very poor family. One of eleven kids. My mother was a stern woman and I guess the way I run this place makes me a lot like her. I’m strict about our rules. Mandatory 11PM curfew. No drugs or alcohol or sex on the premises. Random and regular testing. Group meetings. But my mother always put in an extra half acre of garden just to grow food to give away. She made us work that garden and taught us the value of helping those who need it.”
James, who grew up in Sunrise, lost a brother to addiction and has himself been through recovery twice. He met Jared through mutual friends and would not take no for an answer when Jarod repeatedly refused to date him. He soon brought him home to meet the folks.
Sanctuary House is at a critical juncture. James is its constant operations manager and Jared who works an additional job as a package courier is close to exhaustion and not without health problems. They receive no government funds but are in line for a HOPWA (Housing Opportunities For Persons With AIDS) grant if they can make some required improvements to the property. Their small board of directors includes police office Paul Nash who has been generous with his time, sometimes substituting for them as manager. (James and Jared have taken only one vacation, an overnight to a campground.) Attorney George Castrataro is providing pro bono help with the paperwork needed for 501c3 certification. Every piece of furniture, all the cabinetry, tiling and plantings are donations.
A brief tour of Sanctuary House with introductions to a few of its happy and hopeful residents will teach you the deeper meaning of gay pride which goes beyond waving rainbow flags to combat inequality and has more to do with the personal fight against the private demons that can ruin our lives were it not for men like Jared and James, who are not complaining when they say “We are the hammer and nails of this place, but we need some serious help.” In this season of Thanksgiving, please consider Sanctuary House. They won’t mind your visit and five minutes with these men will leave you eager to support their great work.
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