Cossitt Place residents do not want group home in neighbourhood

Gary Kean
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The recent opening of a Blue Sky Family Care group home on Cossitt Place in Corner Brook has cast a dark cloud over the neighbourhood, according to Glen and Angie Knee.

The Knees live near the home, for youth who come from difficult family situations, that opened on the street around three weeks ago.

Glen Knee says the families living on Cossitt Place have been “terrorized” since the group home opened. He said the teenage boys living in the home are constantly outside swearing loudly and even trespassing onto other properties in the area.

“I was working inside my garage one day and I heard something hitting the side of the garage,” a frustrated Knee said. “I went outside to see what it was and one of them was urinating on the siding.”

It’s gotten to the point already, said Knee, where the area’s children are afraid to go out and play, and older residents find it hard to enjoy their properties comfortably.

“If I hear a noise outside, I find I’m now immediately going to the window to see what it is,” said Knee. “Every night and every morning, I have to walk around my property to make sure everything is OK and nothing has been damaged.”

Knee said the home’s youth have been out on the street smoking cigarettes and skateboarding in the wee hours of the morning.

He and other neighbours have suspected there may even be drugs being consumed in the neighbourhood by occupants of the home.

He said he has tried to talk to the young people directly, asking them to be more respectful of the other people living in the area, but said he’s been sworn at by them.

“I’ve talked to the counsellors working there, but they don’t seem to have any control over these kids,” said Knee.

He has called the police and said the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has been to the house at least 15 times since the home opened.

“The police encouraged me to keep calling them, but said there’s not much they can do because they are juveniles,” said Knee.

This past Friday morning, the RNC’s overnight report included one incident involving police responding to a report of a disturbance at a home on Cossitt Place Thursday. A 14-year-old boy was charged with uttering threats and breaching a probation order.

Knee said he saw police at the group home four times last Thursday. Police did not confirm if the youth charged was a resident of the group home as of press time Monday.

Glenn Grandy, Blue Sky’s chief operating officer, is aware of the concerns Knee and his neighbours have. Grandy was in Corner Brook to visit the home and to try to visit with some of the concerned neighbours Monday.

He doesn’t think the situation is as bad as Knee and the other residents have said it is.

“I think we’re into a (not in my backyard) perspective again,” said Grandy. “I think the incidents are somewhat getting blown out of proportion at the present time.”

Blue Sky Family Care operates similar group homes in St. John’s and several other municipalities in the province. The residents could possibly be boys and girls ranging anywhere from infants to 16 years old, but most homes have youth between the ages of 12 and 16.

The homes are not open custody facilities like Loretta Bartlett House in Corner Brook and the kids living there are not ordered to be there by the court system. Rather, they are kids who, for whatever reason, cannot live with their immediate families.

Homes like the one on Cossitt Place are considered Level 4 care homes, in which children under the protection of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services live in staffed residences, as opposed to being placed with individual families.

The provincial government has recently contracted out the care for these youth to private, for-profit companies such as Blue Sky.

Grandy has been with Blue Sky family care for two years and said he can count on one hand the number of complaints received in metro St. John’s. The complaints, he said, usually involving minor incidents such as staff having parked illegally on a street.

“We are in similar locations (as Cossitt Place) in St. John’s and neighbours have no idea we are operating there, it is so quiet,” said Grandy.

Blue Sky checked with the City of Corner Brook before opening the group home and was told it did not require a permit to do so. Grandy said the company wants to stay on Cossitt Place.

Mayor Charles Pender has spoken with the disgruntled neighbours and the folks from Blue Sky Family Care. The city has reviewed the Urban and Rural Planning Act and Pender agreed the city has no legal right to deny an organization, such as Blue Sky, to use the property as a residence, even if it is for a group home.

“If we tried to block them, we could be in violation of human rights codes because we would be prohibiting somebody the use of a property based on discrimination against the people living there,” said the mayor.

The level and quality of staffing at the group home is the jurisdiction of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services. With Monday a holiday for the provincial government, no one was made available to comment on behalf of the province.

In terms of any residents causing disturbances or being nuisances, Pender said that would be an issue for the police to deal with.

The Knees and several other Cossitt Place neighbours have started a petition they had hoped to present to Corner Brook city council Monday, but could not get it on the meeting’s agenda in time. They now hope to present it to council next week.

They have also written about their concerns to Vaughn Granter, the Tory legislature member for Humber West — where the group home is located — and have copied that letter to Premier Tom Marshall, who represents Humber East.

“We were never informed that a group home was being located in the area,” said Knee. “We are actually considering moving now, but I don’t know who would buy a house next to a group home.”

The City of Corner Brook would be willing to facilitate a meeting between Blue Sky and the residents of Cossitt Place to discuss the issues, said Pender, if both parties were interested in doing that.

Grandy said it is too bad that kids who need help have become the focus of such public scrutiny.

The Town of Stephenville recently denied Blue Sky a permit the town said it needed in order to operate there. Blue Sky has appealed that decision with the municipal review board.

Organizations: Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, Loretta Bartlett House Corner Brook city council

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Blue Sky, Humber West Humber East Stephenville

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Recent comments

  • Not fair
    June 25, 2014 - 12:28

    I live on that road and it's not as bad as they say. The kids barely go outside and every one swears alittle . They just don't like it because they think they are perfect and think everyone should have the same standard as them which isn't always going to happen so they want to get rid of them

  • concerned2
    June 24, 2014 - 16:30

    Permit required/ denied in Stephenville. Wake up Corner Brook. Kids that need help have become the focus of pubic scrutiny....this statement sounds like a guilt trip. Guilt trips are used to muzzle people and are a form of mental abuse comparable to bullying. Mr. Grandy if this is such a great idea, why didnt it en your street.

  • Concearned
    June 24, 2014 - 12:14

    It must be nice to have all perfect childern. like the people who have this petition started

    • concearned sic
      June 24, 2014 - 12:32

      Well, if you care about your children then that's the kind of thing you would do.

  • roland fewer
    June 24, 2014 - 12:00

    Well, that confirms the silent way blue sky does business leading up to actual occupancy of these Group homes, the private for profit ones. They have been trying to put such an operation in my neighbourhood which is a residential can councils say a permit is not needed? Other for profit businesses are only permitted in appropriately zone areas. The whole episodes are beginning to smell worse than skunk spray.from the very beginning government is one hundred responsible for this current mess.

  • Not Signing Petition
    June 24, 2014 - 11:40

    I am saddened once again with the lack of compassion society has today. Doesn't anyone care that this is a haven for CHILDREN who have experienced hardships and need a safe place? I agree that the neighbours should be able to feel safe in their homes and any issues should be addressed, but if we as a community don't start doing our part to help these children I'm doubting kicking them out of this neighbourhood and into another is going to keep them the residents much safer. These kids have been most likely kicked around and told they weren't good enough their whole lives, and apparently they aren't good enough for the upstanding citizens of Cossitt Place either. In fact, I bet these same citizens are going to church on Sunday praying for the less fortunate (just as long as they don't come to our neighbourhood, right??). They are kids, not trash.

    • george p b
      June 24, 2014 - 14:04

      I resent your implications not signing petition. I am as compasionate as anybody else. So now somebody's young teenager urinates against your garage wall, you go to the kid's guardians and get a shoulder shrug????? What would you do---hold hands and sing kumbaya????? And so he comes back and does it again?????

  • chelsea
    June 24, 2014 - 11:06

    Those poor kids might be troubled but can you imagine the emotional damage from being told you kids are too rotten to live here. There trying to rehabilitate them from bad situations and people are shining the spotlight on them trying to shun them from the neighborhood. It;s a disgusting. Signing petitions to chase them out of residence, c'mon why don't you just chase them out with pitchforks. :( These are kids, if they're misbehaving and the group home staff is having trouble keeping up give them time, they're new.

  • InCB
    June 24, 2014 - 10:01

    FYI there are other 'homes' throughout Corner Brook with people who have mental health issues living in residential areas that is also place of employment for their 'workers' that is funded via government. Really the only difference here is Blue Sky is running the home and not some government entity.

  • george p b
    June 24, 2014 - 09:49

    Would somebody please ask friends and family who live in St John's if this is true..... "Glenn Grandy said he can count on one hand the number of complaints received in metro St. John’s."

    • Nicole
      June 24, 2014 - 10:57

      As a Child and Youth worker in metro St. John's for the last 4 years with Blue Sky, I have worked in dozens of houses in the city. I've never once received a complaint (excluding parking) from neighbours nor have any of my coworkers. People who are aware that there is a group home/emergency placement home in their neighbourhood (which is very rare) understand that it's a difficult situation and the workers (believe it or not) are doing what they can. Most people living near by aren't effected

    • What a load
      June 24, 2014 - 12:35

      As a "child and youth" worker (whatever that is) and not the police then you wouldn't know of all the complaints.

    • Child and youth care worker
      June 26, 2014 - 16:32

      @ what a load... If you don't know what a child and youth care worker is why don't you look it up instead of being ignorant. These peoplework in group homes and if there is a complaint made to the police then (in my experience) all workers in that home are informed.

  • george p b
    June 24, 2014 - 09:47

    Glenn Grandy, where are you staying during your "fly in savior" thing in Corner Brook??? I'll bet the Glynnmill Inn.....YOU SHOULD STAY AT THE MESS YOU CREATED!!!!! Whoever made the decision that this is a "residence" should be fired....I feel that a "group home" should be a highly desirable place for troubled youth, and trouble makers should get the boot--back to the misery they came from...

  • bob
    June 24, 2014 - 07:31

    I don't know how this group home can be considered a "residence", when it is clearly a business (where the owners are not present). It is no more a residence than a hotel or a bed and breakfast, or a daycare center. Don't all of those places have to get approval to operate? This is a R2 are zoning area. So, how can the city not have the legal right to get involved when there are clearly complaints? I am just asking the question here, as this position from the city does not seem to make sense?? Perhaps I don't understand correctly the situation? However, clearly the owners of the group home have to be held responsible. They cannot just sit in their office somewhere else in the province and count the money they are making off the tax payers who they are bothering??? Remember, our government is paying to put this problem next door? Should they not look into the problem?

  • Jack
    June 24, 2014 - 06:37

    Now the Newfoundland and Labrador Government are now experiencing the consequences of privatizing group and small options homes as operators like Blue Sky Family Care only care about making a profit and Group Home Workers and Counselors are doing nothing to keep troubled youth under control. Due to the legal principle of "loco parentis", Group Home Workers and Counselors are vicariously liable for the actions of the kids under their care, meaning they have a responsibly to keep troubled kids under their control. That includes keeping the noise level down, stop controlled drug use such as smoking, and keep their behaviour in check, which they are failing to do. Since the teenagers are also smoking cigarettes, the Group Home Counselors can actually face criminal charges as tobacco purchasing and use among individuals under age 19 is illegal in Newfoundland and Labrador. Perhaps giving Group Home Counselors a power to discipline and control youth under their care is needed.

    • Matlock
      June 24, 2014 - 09:21

      How can the group home counselors face "criminal" charges if their charges are using tobacco? That is not an offense under the Criminal Code of Canada. With regards to the law, it sounds like you know enough to be dangerous.

    • andrew
      June 24, 2014 - 11:20

      its a offence when they are under 19 , these kids are 14-16 ...... read the article