Blue Sky, neighbourhood residents meet

Gary
Gary Kean
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Things may not exactly be completely smoothed out, but the lines of communication have been opened between Blue Sky Family Care and the residents of Cossitt Place.

As reported in Tuesday’s edition of The Western Star, homeowners who live on the Corner Brook street claim the young people living at a group home Blue Sky has opened there in early June have been engaging in inappropriate and bothersome behaviour.

On Monday, representatives from Blue Sky were in Corner Brook and planned to knock on some of the doors in the neighbourhood to discuss any concerns the neighbours had. Finding most residents not at home, it was agreed to have a meeting with some of the concerned neighbours as a group Tuesday morning.

Around seven of the residents attended the meeting with Blue Sky. The meeting was also attended by city councillor Tony Buckle and a City of Corner Brook staff member, even though the city was not required to issue any permit for the group home and any nuisance issues are matters for police to deal with.

Glenn Grandy, Blue Sky’s chief operating officer, thought the meeting was a constructive one with frank and open dialogue between both sides of the issue, even if the residents still do not want the group home in the area.

“They voiced their concerns and we expressed what we do as an organization and what we’ve been asked to do by (the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services) to provide that service,” Grandy said.

“I’m not sure the (residents) are on board with what we are doing, but it was a very civil meeting and everyone had the opportunity to say what they wanted.”

Grandy hopes the company was able to provide enough information to help the residents eventually accept the group home in the neighbourhood.

The Western Star tried to reach some of the residents who were at the meeting, but was unable to get any comment from them. An emailed response from one resident, Glen Knee, indicated that the residents would be meeting with Vaughn Granter, the Tory legislature member for Humber West, Tuesday evening and that he wanted to wait until after that meting before commenting further.

The Western Star also left messages with Coun. Buckle to get his thoughts on how the meeting unfolded, but he had not returned those messages as of press time.

Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Clyde Jackman did talk to the newspaper and also expressed his hope that Tuesday’s meeting will bring some stability to the neighbourly relations. It is common, said the minister, for residents to have resistance to and reservations about a youth group home opening up in their neighbourhood.

“I’m certainly hoping the discussions they had with the residents today will allay some of their fears,” Jackman said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

Like in any neighbourhood, said Jackman, concerns about the behaviour of young people living there should first be brought to the attention of the parents. In this case, he said Blue Sky Family Care is the proverbial parent.

If laws are allegedly being breached, added Jackman, then the proper course of action is to notify the police.

While his department would not get involved in matters that should be dealt with by either Blue Sky or by the police, Jackman said Child, Youth and Family Services may be able to assist in helping educate the neighbourhood residents about the service being provided to these youth.

In fact, that is what the department did in Marystown, where there were also concerns recently about Blue Sky opening up a group home. The town councils in Marystown and in Stephenville have both recently rejected requests for permits from Blue Sky to operate in their towns.

“I know sometimes it’s difficult to see, but it’s everybody’s responsibility to raise the children,” said Jackman.

Whether group homes require a municipal permit or not is a matter of debate. The City of Corner Brook, citing its interpretation of the Urban and Rural Planning Act, told Blue Sky it did not require a permit to open in the city.

Blue Sky was awarded a contract by the province after the government decided in March to farm out the operation of staffed group homes for children who, for one reason or another, cannot reside with their immediate families. Unlike custodial facilities, like Loretta Bartlett House in Corner Brook, the children living in these group homes have not been ordered to do so by the court system.

Jackman said the rough start Blue Sky has experienced in trying to establish the group homes has not caused the province to regret deciding to contract out the service.

“Blue Sky has their work to do on the ground, there’s no doubt about it,” said Jackman. “It’s a contract they have gotten and they need to make sure the public is educated and engaged here. That’s a large part of the mandate and something they have to do with the community.”

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  • Randy
    June 25, 2014 - 12:05

    "The City of Corner Brook, citing its interpretation of the Urban and Rural Planning Act, told Blue Sky it did not require a permit to open in the city." Yet, one has to apply, appeal, walk a mile over broken glass, then appeal once again in order to open a home-based business such as a day care, hair salon, or any other small enterprise in this town. Blue Sky is a for-profit, private business that employs people to oversee children in properties that have been purchased specifically for this purpose. Is this simply an interpretation of 'convenience' on the part of the City? The town councils of Marystown and Stephenville have both rejected Blue Sky's appeal, but the City of Corner Brook feels that this isn't a business. The honeymoon is over. It's time for City Council to take the training wheels off and act like a proper, transparent, council elected by tax-paying CBers.

  • My opinion
    June 25, 2014 - 10:17

    Clyde Jackman your comment that the public has a responsibility to raise these unfortunate children is stupid.. I have my own children to raise and thats my responsbility and if parents or so called parents met their responsibilities then these unfortunate children would likely not be in these homes... Mr. Jackman who in their right mind would want to have a group home with displaced children near them? Property values would plummet. The children likely come with baggage with loads of atitude and neighbors have to deal with it.... Why don't you Mr. Jackman have one of these homes set up next to your residence and then you may understand the problems created by government by contracting out..

  • Michael
    June 25, 2014 - 09:35

    Our concerns as residents should have much more weight than Blue Sky and Anne Whelan. I'll bet she doesn't have a group home for troubled youth in her St. John's neighborhood and neither should we. Plain and Simple.

  • bob
    June 25, 2014 - 08:46

    How can the Minister be happy with the supervision that Blue Sky is providing at this group house when the police are always having to deal with complaints and one of the kids there has already been arrested for uttering threats? Seems to me if Blue sky was providing the guidance and supervision that they are getting paid to provide, there would not be complaints from the neighbors or and arrest, and this would not be a news story. It is like the system is failing these kids again. This private for profit company may only be looking at dollars and cents and not the best interested of the children at all. I suspect behind closed doors the Minister may not be as pleased with the services that Blue Sky is providing than he appears to be on the surface. And of course it is always easy to try and deflect the real issue of the kids not being properly supervised by calling the neighbors cold hearted, etc… The “education” to be provided to the neighbors? That is just a smoke screen to the real problem of the facility not properly caring for these children in need. Please don't drink the cool aid! But that is just my opinion. Me, just a tax payer and a voter… I wonder how many more like me share the same opinion?