Over 30 village residents, plus several members of the village administration, Wednesday night met with the owners of a proposed adult group home who attempted to ease minds regarding the facility.
Les Crowe and his partners, Sherry Minto and Joseph Crowe, attended the meeting at the Leetonia Community Public Library at the request of residents after two visits to Village Council to share their plans for an adult group home in the former Presbyterian church at High and Elm streets. Residents voiced concerns about the number of residents and their mental illnesses in such close proximity to Wick Park and other residences, as well as issues of privacy and property values.
The home cannot be licensed until it receives its occupancy and other permits that will be granted by the village.
The owners told residents that the home would be a private facility that is financed through the financial supplements of its residents and state licensed through the Ohio Department of Mental Health. The home would house up to 16 individuals suffering from mild mental illnesses or who have difficulty caring for themselves. Background checks will be completed on each prospective resident and no one with a violent or sexual criminal record will be accepted.
"We want a nice, safe, clean environment (for the home's residents)," said Les Crowe. "We don't want people (living in the home) who will come in and upset that...create chaos."
The owners also explained that the home will be operated similar to a boarding house in that residents will have house rules to follow, such as curfews and alcohol and illicit drug prohibitions, but will be free to do as they please between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.; they are not wards of the state and have the same rights as every other citizen. Residents typically spend their time traveling with family or case workers and some have jobs, so they won't be roaming the streets, they said, and if there are any problems, the residents are liable for their actions just as any other citizen. There are also activities offered inside the home to occupy the residents.
In response to the amount of staff at the facility, the owners said that there is typically one staff member each shift, sometimes two during the day. Staff members are not licensed health care professionals but must complete thorough training by trained professionals. A nurse visits three times each week and a doctor and psychiatrist visit once each month to monitor the health of the residents. If there are any problems the residents are taken to a hospital for treatment.
Les Crowe and Minto operate the Franklin Home in Steubenville. Les Crowe said he has 20 years of experience with adult group homes, having previously owned facilities in Alliance and Lake Milton.
According to Zoning Inspector John Rydarowicz, the former church building is already located in multi-family residential area and that the owners are not developing or expanding, nor is there zoning for the inside of buildings, so the village has not had to issue any permits as yet.
Residents still expressed discomfort with the home and voiced concerns about the perception of the residents possibly changing how people view the village, such as dissuading people to attend community events and forcing village residents to lock their doors.
Crowe responded that community members should get involved with the residents and get to know them.
Kevin Howell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org