DeWine: Sober living charity abused, exploited vulnerable residents

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The Ohio Attorney General says a charity aimed at helping people in need abused, exploited and took advantage of them.

The Reynoldsburg-based charity has more than 100 people living in sober houses across Franklin County.

"I've been here 3 and a half years. I came here from a rehab center," Williams said. "It's allowed me to have a roof over my head. Not only a roof over my head, but I have my family."

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Not blood family, but brothers in recovery, like Christopher White.

"This has become a family household where we all interact. We live by a certain code. We don't drink, we don't do drugs," said White.

But they say it has come at a price.

"He took advantage of people. Very vulnerable people," said White, referring to Chuck Kirk.

Court documents say Chuck Kirk and his family control Summer Rays, Reynoldsburg Revolve Church and the Rev Cafe.

This week, at the urging of the Attorney General, a Franklin County Court seized control of the properties from Kirk.

The Attorney General's Office calls Summer Rays "a slow-motion crisis on a large scale."

In court filings, the state describes a "cult-like environment" where Kirk "indoctrinated" residents with "verbal and physical intimidation," and "abuse of authority."

"Chuck could be verbally abusive yes," said Williams. "Sometimes. But that was his way. You'd tolerate it because if you didn't pretty much, you didn't have a place to live."

The Attorney General says Kirk "is subject to no independent oversight" and "used his near absolute control to engage in activity that is wildly inappropriate for the director of a sober living program."

That allegedly included unwanted physical contact and "financial exploitation" of residents.

And a rule that "Summer Rays residents are not to call 911 unless (Kirk) is contacted first...specifically when residents overdose."

One resident asked not to be identified, but described Summer Rays this way:

"If somebody gives you food to eat, but then they kick you, they really didn't give you nothing. You still have to eat tomorrow, so you also have to be prepared to be kicked tomorrow too. So you become immune to punishment."

They say since the court has stepped in, their worry isn't Chuck Kirk, but what happens to the more than 100 residents in his program.

"(My fear is) that people are gonna die," Williams said. "People will be under stress, and what they will do is pick up their old habits again."

10TV reached Chuck Kirk by phone Wednesday.

He said he would consult with his attorney and get back with us.

As of Wednesday night, that had not happened.

The court has temporarily placed Summer Rays and its properties in the control of an independent receiver.

A spokesperson for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told 10TV:

"The Ohio Attorney General's Office took necessary action against Summer Rays because this nonprofit was not a properly run charitable organization and we were concerned for the safety of more than 100 residents. Our office continues to work with residents on housing options, food resources, and community programs available to support their sobriety efforts."