Two residents complained Thursday night about six homes used by the Set Free Men's Ranch in Cabazon, and a pastor who oversees the program said Friday his ministry plans to close the locations in accordance with recent county code enforcement abatement notices.
The Set Free program in Cabazon is billed as faith-based residential rehab for substance abusers seeking to make a fresh start in life. Set Free has several programs in California, and locations in eight other states and Haiti, according to its web site.
Residents Martin Sanderson and Carola Baer told members of the West Desert Municipal Advisory Council the Set Free residences were in violation of "public nuisance laws" and that Set Free was housing probationers and parolees there.
Sanderson also told the advisory council and a representative for District 5 Supervisor Marion Ashley that Set Free staff and clients were employing "intimidation tactics" that led them to believe they "are at risk."
The program's locations are all in southeast Cabazon near Esperanza Avenue - on Elm Street, Maxine Avenue, Plum Street, Lois Avenue and Adele Avenue, Sanderson said.
Sanderson, who said he's lived in Cabazon about five years and coaches local children in gymnastics, said it makes him uneasy whenever he sees Set Free clients in the neighborhood when youngsters are around.
In September, the county Board of Supervisors ordered owners of the Set Free structures in Cabazon to bring the six properties up to minimum county building and fire codes.
County code enforcement issued abatement notices on the properties earlier this month, Pastor Willie Dalgity of Set Free Yucaipa said Friday in a phone interview.
Dalgity disputed several of Sanderson's contentions, including that Set Free was housing probationers and parolees in Cabazon, stating the program stopped doing so in recent months.
The trailers and add-ons operated by Set Free in Cabazon house from 30 to 40 men, Dalgity said.
"I don't know why they're going to the MAC," Dalgity said. "We were already served abatement orders from county code enforcement. We have 90 days from Dec. 6. We've been out there 17 years and never had a problem. The sheriff's department used to bring people to us.
"We're going to have to take down the properties," Dalgity said. "They're donated trailers and mobile homes with add-ons that are not up to code. The trailers they date back to the '60s and '70s.
"But if they held everybody to the same standard, they'd have to tear down about two-thirds of that part of Cabazon," Dalgity said. "It's all distressed. Dilapidated. And it's kind of ironic. When code enforcement talks to other property owners, they call us to help clean up because we have the manpower. We try to be good neighbors."
Dalgity said Sanderson had several facts wrong when he spoke to the West Desert Municipal Advisory Council.
"We've never had any violent crimes out there," Dalgity said. "We've never had any deaths at our place. We do deal with people off the streets, people who are at risk. We just provide them a place where they can clean up, get in touch with Christ, turn things around, and try to be productive in society.
"When we came to Cabazon we knew there were drug problems there, meth labs and such," Dalgity said. "We had some people who live there come join us. We've been helping local people."
Dalgity said he believes most people appreciate Set Free and the work the program has accomplished for individuals and in the community.
"Our only problem is Martin Sanderson," Dalgity said. "He doesn't want us there. And when people complain, the county has to do something about it."
Cabazon is located in the San Gorgonio Pass near Morongo Indian Reservation lands, east of Banning and Beaumont in Riverside County, California.