LEXINGTON, Mo. — Lexington, Missouri residents are pushing back against a proposed facility for white males and its founder, who claims to be more successful at helping drug addicts than traditional professionals.
“We’ll see. We can only find out by trying,” that founder, Craig Nelsen, told 41 Action News.
In a phone conversation outside his motel room, the Washington D.C. resident said he’s taking a wait-and-see approach to the concept he wants to bring to Lexington.
“The program I’m pushing is brand-new and innovative,” Nelsen told us.
Nelsen wants to put a “life-treatment” center in an old grocery store on Main Street to help men overcome drug addiction.
Nelsen doesn't have a building permit, but it would be a 13-week residency program, costing nearly $2,300. It would focus on boxing, literature, poetry, butchery and mathematics to reform drug addicts. Nelsen said he’d hire instructors.
Nelsen calls it the Robinson Jeffers Boxing Club, a for-profit venture.
But it wouldn't include any state certification or drug treatment specialists.
“It’s not specifically a drug treatment program,” Nelsen said. “This is a brand-new way that won’t have drug counselors. We won’t have people there listening to people tell them about their drug habits, or why they take drugs. That’s not important. We’re not going to tell them what to do about the drugs. We’re not going to tell them not to take them.”
Many Lexington residents have heard about Nelsen’s project and are appalled.
“It’s an invitation for drug addicts, drug abusers to come to town to participate in a program that won’t have any professional oversight,” resident Brad Worthington said.
Residents are also concerned that Nelsen is not an expert on drug treatment, and the concerns go on from there.
“I know the community has dug into the background and character of this particular person. It’s not very favorable,” Worthington said.
In a letter sent to a former Wentworth Military Academy official, Nelsen says he wants to cater to high-IQ, white, male, heroin addicts because the opioid epidemic affects them more than anyone else. Nelsen went on to say white males are undergoing racial denigration and disempowerment. At the bottom of the letter, he says he’ll accept any race.
Worthington and other residents said they don’t want that element in their small town.
“All the people who are saying that this is a program for white supremacy and that I’m a racist – they’re speaking out of ignorance,” Nelsen said.
“The motivation for a business like this has got to be to make money,” Worthington countered.
In the phone conversation, Nelsen told 41 Action News his goal is to "get rich and leave a good mark on the world."
41 Action News dug into Nelsen’s past, and he got quite a bit of backlash for his two organizations, ProjectUSA and Friends of Immigration Law Enforcement, for controversial anti-immigration billboards. He later admitted to the New York Times he employed illegal immigrants at a restaurant he used to run.
In 2012, Nelsen came under fire in D.C. for running a waffle house illegally without a business license. According to a D.C. neighborhood publication, DCist, Nelsen allegedly didn’t pay those employees, either.
Nelsen appeared in national news publications blaming the demise of his waffle house on coupon company Groupon. Groupon said they weren’t to blame because Nelsen had already received 2/3 of his share.
Regardless of Nelsen’s past, residents expect him to face an uphill battle with the city’s Planning and Zoning committee.
According to a Lexington ordinance, a transitional housing facility cannot be within 300 feet of homes, churches, or schools. Nelsen’s project would.
Residents plan to voice their concerns at the Planning and Zoning committee meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday night, where Nelsen will present his plan.
Lexington’s city administrator said nothing has been decided, and the meeting is the first step in the process. The city would vote whether to advance it to the full City Council within the first couple weeks of February.