Rest and recovery: Paradise Valley religious sect bunker repurposed for addiction recovery program

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At the Montana Society, a 12-step-based sober living and work camp in Paradise Valley, residents are restoring the ruins of an underground Cold War-era nuclear bunker into a vaulted-roomed, post-atomic retreat.

“We took the abandoned and the old, and made it new and usable,” said Dean Andersen, who founded the Montana Society in 2019, and is a Wells Fargo-associated financial advisor based in Atlanta, Georgia. Since then, Andersen has hosted 30 individuals in five summer-long work and recovery stints. The residents in recovery are tasked with working construction on the renovation bunker project while staying clean from drugs and alcohol.

Andersen, more than three decades sober from his own alcohol and drug-related challenges, said he personally compensates, feeds and provides recovering camp habitants with shelter on his 6-acre property in the Glastonbury South subdivision in Emigrant.

Andersen’s property, which he purchased for $144,000 in 2017, includes a 4,000-square-foot subterranean bunker. Renovations have included raising the roof and expanding above ground. His long-term vision for the residential structure is to turn it into a future Airbnb, capable of sleeping 25 guests. Andersen has spent more than $200,000 renovating the place since 2019.

“The people are the project and the bunker is the conduit and mechanism to transform them at a deeper level,” said Andersen.

“Montana” in Montana Society stands for Men of New Thought and New Awareness, said Andersen.

Andersen said there were originally more than 40 underground shelters in the area, constructed by the Church Universal and Triumphant, or CUT, a religious sect which flourished in the 1980s and early 90s. Many church followers lived in the bunkers, built by Elizabeth Claire Prophet, the sect’s leader.

Prophet warned of a “high probability” of a nuclear holocaust, as reported in an article in the LA Times on Feb. 21, 1991. The shelters were loaded up with food, water, medicine, gas masks and other supplies, enabling survival for a year or longer, or until the radioactive fallout remnants dissipated.

Perhaps it is no surprise the sober living group’s unconventional environment captured viewers attention in the form of “Montana Society,” a reality TV show that debuted in 2022. Two seasons and 22 episodes were broadcast on America vs. Addiction, a topical TV channel, and can be streamed online.

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