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.”