The frustrated residents of Cossitt Place feel their concerns are being glossed over and they are vowing to keep trying to have the group home on their street removed.
The neighbours went public this week after saying they have endured numerous incidents involving the youth who are residents at the home operated by Blue Sky Family Care in Corner Brook.
They say the young people are constantly swearing loudly outside the home, are trespassing on neighbourhood properties and are outside the home making a racket in the wee hours of the morning. They say the police have been called to home on many occasions since it opened in early June.
They are mostly upset the group home was allowed to be established on their street without them being given any prior notice.
The City of Corner Brook has told the residents the home did not require a permit to operate as it is essentially a residence like any other, according to the city’s view of the relevant legislation.
Blue Sky has said the neighbours may have been blowing incidents out of proportion and that it’s just a matter of time before they become more accepting of their newest neigbours.
Blue Sky operates the group home as part of a contract it as awarded by the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services. Minister Clyde Jackman hopes a meeting held Tuesday morning between the disgruntled neighbours and representatives from Blue Sky will help lead to a better understanding of the group home’s presence and more stable relations between everyone living in the area.
That’s not likely to happen anytime soon, according to Glenn Knee, one of the neighbours who has been speaking out against the home. Knee and other unhappy neighbours met with Blue Sky Tuesday morning and, later in the evening, met with their MHA, Vaughn Granter.
“They keep trying to sugarcoat the issues and refused to answer some of the questions we had for them because they said it would be a violation of confidentiality and all that stuff,” Knee said of the response the residents have received from Blue Sky and Jackman’s comments.
Knee said the residents have been made out to look like unreasonable aggressors in the situation.
“If these were normal kids, we wouldn’t even notice them being there,” said Knee. “We tolerated so much before we reached our breaking point and had to start reporting them.”
Tuesday’s meeting with Blue Sky was a good one, said Knee, but he added the neighbourhood’s concerns have not been allayed.
“We’re still concerned for our personal safety and our comfort level,” he said.
Around 150 people from the Cossitt Place and surrounding neighbourhood have signed a petition Knee plans to present to Corner Brook city council next week.
“I guess the city is being careful, but I think they have passed the buck,” Knee said of the city saying there is nothing it can do about the group home opening up.
“The message I want everyone to understand in Corner Brook is that they could be in your neighbourhood tomorrow — these same kids and these same issues.”
Granter, meanwhile, said he will be bringing the concerns of the residents to the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services and with Jackman himself.
“I really understand where the residents are coming from, especially since this was unbeknownst to them,” Granter said of the lack of notice given to the neighbours before the group home opened.
The MHA said he will be following up by trying to get the particulars of the contract signed and whether the company was supposed to consult with the neighbours in advance. Granter said he will also be looking into the issue of staffing levels at the group home, as per the contract stipulations.
Granter promised to forward information to the residents and welcomed them to stay in communication with him on the issue.
“As the member of the House of Assembly, I do have to represent the needs and wishes of the residents that are in the neighbourhood and raise their concerns, if they have any,” said Granter. “That’s what I’m doing through this process.”
Knee said he told Granter this issue is not about to go away anytime soon and the neighbours are already considering their legal options if the situation is not worked out to their satisfaction.
“The bottom line is this is a for-profit business,” said Knee. “They aren’t doing it because they love these kids. They’re doing it to make money. That’s how we feel.”