Council tables group home decision

 

After much conversation Tuesday night, City Council members chose to postpone a decision to allow a group home for young adults with mental illness.

Haresh Thakkar requested to gain a Special Use Permit to turn a professional administrative office into the home for 10 adults between the ages of 18 and 21.

The home would be managed by the H Group, which is an organization dedicated to behavioral healthcare.

H Group representatives said the home’s purpose is to teach the residents to become independent so they can eventually integrate into the community.

However, some council members had concerns about the ordinance.

Councilperson Jane Adams said she thinks staff should live in the group homes, but the representatives said there would be two staff on duty at all times who would have shifts for eight hours. While Adams said she thought the home would run more smoothly if it had live-in staff, she pointed out that she also believes it is illegal not to have them.

Councilman Don Monty read aloud the definition of the code, which states a requirement of two or more resident live-in staff members, but Councilman Chris Wissmann said it is possible the code could be interpreted in other ways.

Councilman Lance Jack, however, was mainly concerned with the location. The home would be directly across the street from Brehm Preparatory School, which is a school for students with learning disabilities.

“If we have mentally ill people staying … in this home directly across the street, is it somehow going to cause a conflict with an established residence that is right in proximity?” he said.

Jack said he was worried about interactions between group home residents and Brehm students. Richard Collins, executive director of Brehm, said he agreed.

“From my perspective, we both have populations of kids who are at risk and you cannot predict what will happen,” he said. “I do not want to be the person to have to call the parents and say something occurred.”

However, an H Group representative said he has not seen more than a few incidents with neighbors of group homes in his many years with the organization. He said almost all incidents occur internally, and H Group representatives call the police on residents to make sure it’s on record when they do.

Monty suggested the council table the discussion until more of the agreement’s conditions and language could be negotiated and made clear. Wissmann concurred with the idea, and Mayor Joel Fritzler announced the issue would be discussed again at the council’s Jan. 29 meeting

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About Tara Kulash

You can reach Tara at tkulash@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext. 255.

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