Questions and Answers
A community home, also known as a group home, is a private residence for children or young people who cannot live with their families, or people with chronic disabilities who may be adults or seniors. Typically there are no more than six residents and there is at least one trained caregiver there twenty-four hours a day.
- Who will be living in this group/community home?
Pecan Grove intends to remodel two separate homes for persons with an intellectual or developmental disability.
- What/Who is Pecan Grove?
Pecan Grove Training Center has been a part of the community since 1977. All members of the administration live in Central Louisiana. The current Administrator is Kara Bertrand. She has been part of the PGTC team for 25 years and part of the community for 30 years. The Care Management team which is an umbrella over Pecan Grove was created in part by JUNE PEACH. Her son, Tom Peach is now President of Care Management. We operate as an ICF/DD (Intermediate Care Facility for persons diagnosed with developmental disabilities). For more than 40 years Pecan Grove Training Center has offered a warm safe environment for physically and mentally challenged individuals to grow, learn and succeed. We provide training and encouragement to help develop independence as well as medical care, specialized therapies, nutritional care and community involvement. Respect for individuality always has been a part of the Pecan Grove Training Center legacy. A key to our success is the attention given to developing programs that meet the specific needs of each person. At every step along the way, the individual is treated with love, respect and dignity.
Vision-We envision a world where an individual has opportunities and supports that promote self-determination, the joy of achievement, and a fulfilling life.
Mission-Pecan Grove Training Center supports children and adults with disabilities or challenges to achieve their highest potential and independence through innovative and individualized approaches that promote learning and personal fulfillment.
Health and Safety – The well-being of the individuals we serve and our employees is our highest priority. We are diligent about promoting a just culture of transparency and accountability that identifies, mitigates, and effectively manages risks.
Respect – We acknowledge and value the dignity of all human beings and value our relationships with one another. This is evident in our relationships with our clients, their families, our employees and other stakeholders; our environments; the way in which we deliver services; and the manner in which we conduct business. We are committed to compassionate care, ethical practices, effective and honest communication, collaborative relationships, and the highest standards of integrity.
Innovation – Our commitment to excellence and achieving exceptional outcomes is reflected in our efforts to adopt state-of-the-art, evidence-based, and cutting-edge practices. Toward this end, we value new ideas, scientific and technological advancements, partnerships with Centers of Excellence, and collaborations with Institutions of Higher Learning.
Leadership – We are committed to being a high-performance organization, an employer and provider of choice, and a recognized leader in the field of human services.
Advocacy – Our commitment to advocating for the welfare of the individuals we serve is in keeping with the tradition of Pecan Grove Training Center. We proactively take action to protect and advance the best interest of the individuals we serve through our active engagement in our communities, and by influencing policies and decisions made at the local, state, and federal level.
Courage – Pecan Grove Training Center is a home that embraces positive change. We have the resolve to advocate for the best interests of our clients and the openness to pursue opportunities that advance our vision, mission, and values.
Pecan Grove Training Center is a truly special place that provides unique opportunities for our clients. We provide 24-hour residential care in a warm, safe, learning environment for people with developmental, intellectual and physical disabilities with a caring staff to meet each individuals need. Pecan Grove Training Center has been part of the community serving our clientele for over 35 years. We are composed of a 114 bed main campus in Alexandria, LA, with a day program on site. In addition to the main campus, we have a community home for 6 people in Charles Park. Our clients face and conquer their challenges daily with help from our loving staff and an individualized training program, specific to their needs.
- What is a developmental disability?
- A mental or physical disability
- Manifests prior to age 22
- Expected to last indefinitely
- Substantially limits the person in three or more areas:
- Self-care (i.e. being able to bathe themselves, dress themselves, etc.)
- Receptive or expressive language skills
- Capacity for independent living (i.e. being able to cook their own food, shop at the grocery store, manage their money, etc.)
- Economic self-sufficiency (i.e. being able to work in competitive employment)
- Why are the individuals living in a group/community home and not in a large institution such as Pinecrest?
Institutions, such as Pinecrest, used to be the norm. However, federal and state laws and initiatives over the past 20 years have made community based services the priority. Large institutions, such as Pinecrest, are reserved for individuals who are not able to live in the community.
- What is the need for group homes?
Group homes are the alternative to institutionalization for many people with disabilities whose needs are better met by supportive housing. Often the residents of those larger institutions may not get the services, supports, and decent, safe, integrated housing they need. Group homes enable people with disabilities to live integrated with their community, as envisioned by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
According to data published by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, over the past 30 years there has been a decline in the number of individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities residing in large institutionalized settings, and a corresponding increase in the number receiving services in home and community-based services, including group homes. There are numerous initiatives at the federal and state level to move people from large institutional settings into smaller home and community based settings. For example, one program is called Money Follows the Person. This program allows funds that were being spent in large settings to move with the individual to support them in smaller settings. Another program is called Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). PSH is a program whereby the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals works with housing providers to develop community-based housing options that support individuals with disabilities.
- What do people do all day in a community home?
People with a disability who live in a group/community home do the same kinds of things that you and I do. They go to work, they go grocery shopping, they take care of their yard and home, they visit with friends and family, they go to school, they go to the doctor, they go to church, etc. The only difference is that they need a little help to do some of those things. And we are there to help them. We bring them to the doctor and the grocery store. We help them cook their meals, etc.
- What are the main fears that others have expressed about having a community home in a neighborhood?
The main fears expressed about community homes are:
- a depreciation of property values,
- a loss of safety, and
- a decline in quality of life.
“Among concerns expressed by neighbors was that the adults with a disability might wander onto their property and hurt them. This concern is not supported by evidence. Most people who worry about community homes simply don’t know anything about them, including the fact that they have 24-hour on-site supervision to monitor the residents’ behavior.”
- What are some strategies to help the neighbors and community members be receptive to the community home?
Some companies have found it worthwhile to sit down with residents and try to allay their concerns, while focusing on the mission of a community home instead of the people who will live there.
- Example: “When Bancroft, a nonprofit company in Haddonfield, was opening a community home in Haddonfield’s Fargo section several years ago, neighbors protested. With tensions mounting, borough officials and Bancroft representatives held a special community meeting to talk with residents about the home. “Things were rough for a while,” said Dori Grim, area supervisor for Bancroft. “But once they saw that we would cut the lawn like everyone else, that we would care for the house like everyone else on the block, then they found that their fears were unfounded.”
There is an overwhelming volume of evidence that homes for people with disabilities do not significantly impact property values.
In a review of 47 studies from 1973—1993, researchers found that property values remain unaffected by homes for people with disabilities. The studies also revealed that group homes do not make properties close to the homes harder to sell.1
For example: Julian Wolpert, Princeton University, studied the impact of group homes for people with mental retardation in ten NY State communities and compared the findings with 42 other communities without group homes. Wolpert found that there was no significant difference in property values and no decline in the value of adjacent properties in the study area.2
Another study of property market activity around 12 Philadelphia mental health facilities also concluded that no decline in sales prices occurred due to the presence of community homes.3
The Community Services Information Program reviewed a total of 58 studies, spanning nearly two decades, from 1970-1989. The research reviewed consistently demonstrated that group homes have not negatively impacted property values or property turnover rates.4
Among these studies, S. Breslow, Princeton University, reviewed the impact of 16 community residences for the developmentally disabled, mentally ill, veterans, neglected children and the elderly on the real estate market in White Plains, NY. He found that the homes did not depress property values and, in some cases, caused appreciation of property values.5 (Believed to be the result of renovations to the homes.)
In Stamford Connecticut, property values in eight neighborhoods with group homes were compared to 23 neighborhoods without group homes. The group homes housed chronically mentally ill and mentally retarded adults, homeless families, adolescent males and recovering alcoholics. The researchers concluded that the data provided strong evidence that group homes have no effect on property values.6
1Michael Dear, Robert Wilton (1996) “The Question of Property Values,” Campaign for New Community, Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, 1419 V Street NW, Washington, DC 20009. 2Wolpert, Julian (1978) “Group Homes for the Mentally Retarded: An Investigation of Neighborhood Property Impacts,” prepared for NY Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities; Princeton University.3Dear, Michael (1977) “Impact Of Mental Health Facilities On Property Values” Community Mental Health Journal, 13:150-157.4Community Services Information Program (1990) There Goes the Neighborhood. White Plains, NY.5Breslow, S. (1976) “The Effect of Siting Group Homes on Surrounding Environs.” Princeton University.6Coleman, A. (1989). “The Effect of Group Homes on Residential Property Values in Stamford, Connecticut.” Stamford Connecticut. St. Lukes Community Services.
No. People with disabilities are no more dangerous than the population – at – large. Indeed, studies have shown that people with disabilities are more likely to be victims, themselves. Still, there are many myths associated with having a disability. The myth that people with disabilities are dangerous creates a painful obstacle for people with developmental disabilities.
Pecan Grove has a 40-year track record of providing safe, quality residential programs in local communities. These homes are just like any other, except that there is an agency operating the home whose staff members assist the residents. As part of their contract obligation to the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), the agency is responsible for maintaining the home and property, as well as for assisting or supervising the residents.
Specific licensing requirements for health and safety safeguard the residents. The homes are licensed and inspected regularly by DHH. DHH requires agencies to adhere to an ongoing system of reporting and monitoring and social workers and residents’ family members have unrestricted access to the homes. This combination of openness and oversight means that any problems in the home can be quickly detected and resolved.
The majority of group/community homes are operated by not-for-profit agencies. Not-for-profit agencies may be exempt from taxes under federal and state laws. However, all other taxes are paid.
No, because it is against the law to do so. Homes for people with disabilities share the same rights as everyone else in choosing where to live. The Federal Fair Housing Act, originally created to protect the rights of minority groups to live where they choose, was extended in 1988 to specifically include people with disabilities. Everyone benefits from this right and all of us have an obligation to abide by this federal law protecting our right to live where we choose, without discrimination.
Agencies are permitted to discuss their programs with neighbors and the community once a house has been purchased and a closing is finalized. Once a home has settled into a neighborhood, community members find that it is just like any other home in the community.
The Federal Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.):
- Prohibits local zoning rules to discriminate in housing opportunities for the disabled;
- Makes it unlawful to deny a dwelling to any buyer or renter because of a handicap.
Olmstead, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Human Resources, et al. v. L.C.: 1999
The Olmstead case and the integration mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have responded to a documented need that is present at the municipal level. Many individuals with disabilities are segregated in various types of facilities and are quite isolated from mainstream community life. Olmstead establishes the principle that people with disabilities should receive benefits, services, and housing in the most integrated community setting appropriate to their individual needs.
Barthelemy v. Hood was a Louisiana based class action lawsuit (mirrored on the federal Olmstead case). It was filed in 2000 on behalf of people living in nursing homes and people at imminent risk of entering a nursing home who preferred and could benefit from home and community based services. As a result of the Barthelemy lawsuit, the number of people receiving services in the community has increased from approximately 3000 to over 18,000.
In addition, the ADA integration mandate prohibits the discrimination and segregation of individuals with disabilities.
Pecan Grove is following both Olmstead, Barthelemy, and the ADA integration mandate by providing affordable, accessible, community-based housing based on the individual needs of the people who choose to live there.
Joint Statement of the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development: Group Homes, Local Land Use and the Fair Housing Act defines disabilities, identifies zoning that violates the Fair Housing Act, and defines reasonable accommodation related to group homes. The Joint Statement notes that ‘group home’ does not have a specific legal meaning, but it also distinguishes between a group home occupied by groups of unrelated individuals with disabilities, compared to a group home of unrelated persons such as a group of students.
Reasonable accommodation guidelines
In general terms, reasonable accommodation issues concerning group homes are often reached at the administrative level. Four steps can provide a guideline for consideration of a group home:
• The housing that is the subject of the request for reasonable accommodation is for people with disabilities as defined in federal or state fair housing laws;
• The reasonable accommodation requested is necessary to make specific housing available to people with disabilities who are protected under fair housing laws;
• The requested accommodation will not impose an undue financial or administrative burden on the local government. Such a burden might be to pave an extended unpaved roadway; and
• The requested accommodation will not result in a fundamental alteration in the local zoning code, such as the development of a large multi-family building in a single family district.
- Who should I call if I have questions about the group home/community home?
Contact Pecan Grove at: 318-448-0291 or
318-290-9228 Kara Bertrand, Administrator
- What are some success stories of group/community homes in other areas of the state/country?
Our first group home, named after JUNE PEACH, initially had some opposition from the community. It has been a community home for 5 years with few problems. There are numerous other success stories of other homes. We would be happy to compile these for you.
- What oversight will there be for this group/community home?
The group home will be licensed, monitored and regularly inspected by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Pecan Grove is managed by Care Management. The Past President is the late June Peach. The current President is her son, Tom Peach. He is a native of Alexandria and his family lives in Alexandria. The home will be staffed by trained round-the-clock personnel who do not live there. In addition, the home will comply with all local building, health and human safety codes, including inspections twice annually by the Fire Department.
- Why is Pecan Grove wanting to open this group home?
Pecan Grove wants to open this group home to provide individuals with disabilities the opportunity to live in their community.
Not in My Backyard
By Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez
“Proposed homes for the disabled spark fears,” read newspaper headlines when California state officials moved to relocate state hospital residents to a home in a suburban San Jose neighborhood last year. That same year, a proposed home for mentally retarded persons in a quiet neighborhood in Hewlett, New York, sparked more than fears. There “respectable” citizens torched the home that was under construction, claiming that they supported efforts to move mentally retarded persons out of institutions and into community housing, but . . .
The NIMBY syndrome (Not In My Backyard) is a familiar one now. Twenty years ago, public exposure of the hell-like conditions in mental institutions led to dramatic changes in society’s treatment of mentally retarded persons. Instead of being institutionalized, these individuals would be placed in community homes. The public policy of finding homes for mentally retarded persons in the community was greeted with enthusiasm from the public—but only at a distance. When people discovered that persons with mental retardation were moving in next door, enthusiasm quickly waned and opposition set in.
Opposition to Group Homes
Neighborhood opposition to group homes is often justified on the basis of justice. It is argued that when society adopts a policy that will entail certain costs, these costs should be distributed fairly among all members of society. The opening of group homes in certain neighborhoods imposes great costs–costs which are not equally shared by all the community. It is argued, for example, that group homes lower property values, increase traffic, and change the character of neighborhoods. Residents of homes, critics claim, can be a nuisance, or worse, a danger to a neighborhood. While society may have a duty to provide decent homes for persons with mental retardation, it has no right to arbitrarily impose the costs of doing so on particular neighborhoods, while the rest of the community is spared.
Opposition to group homes is also fueled by those who maintain that implied agreements create a right to what is agreed. When a family buys a home in a neighborhood zoned for single-family residences, they make an implicit agreement with local government that the zoning will be maintained. If people had known that, a year later, the house next door would be turned into a group home, it’s likely they would have looked elsewhere. When local officials allow a group of mentally retarded persons to move into the neighborhood, they violate these implicit agreements.
Moreover, it is argued, if town officials are allowed to make exceptions for people with mental retardation, what is to keep them from also allowing ex-drug addicts, ex-sex offenders, and others into neighborhoods. There is more than enough land in our country on which group homes can be built without invading residential neighborhoods set aside for the enjoyment of single families.
Support for Group Homes
On the other hand, those who support the establishment of group homes in neighborhoods claim that justice requires that all persons and situations be treated alike unless there are morally relevant reasons for treating them differently. They argue that there is no basis to the claims made by opponents of group homes, and, consequently, that there are no good reasons for treating group homes and their residents differently from other homes and families in a neighborhood.
First, the claim that groups homes, unlike other homes, cause surrounding property values to decline is false. Numerous studies investigating the impact of group homes on housing markets show that group homes have no significant effect on nearby housing prices. In fact, some studies have reported that property values of surrounding homes increase Nor is there evidence to support the claim that group homes harm the “character” of neighborhoods. Surveys show that group homes are maintained as well, if not better, than other neighborhood homes, and are unlikely to cause an increase in traffic or congestion.
Finally, residents of group homes are no more likely than other people to be dangerous. Studies comparing rates of arrest of residents of group homes with the general population show that it is probably safer to live next door to a group home than a more typical family residence. Like the rest of us, persons with mental retardation spend their days working, and in their free time they, like us, go shopping, are active in church or civic groups, watch TV, eat out, go for walks, and visit friends.
Those who support group homes in neighborhoods concede that traffic congestion, harm to one’s property or person, and even maintaining the so called “character” of neighborhoods may be good reasons to regulate the use of land in residential areas. But when the establishment of a residence will not cause traffic congestion nor pose a threat to property values, personal safety, or the character of neighborhoods, and is still opposed, the reason for opposition can only be prejudiceÑ the unjust exclusion of people whom we perceive as different merely because this difference causes us some “psychological discomfort.” We may dislike coming into contact with people whom we perceive as “not like us.” But such discomfort is certainly not to be counted as a morally relevant reason for excluding persons with mental retardation from our neighborhoods.
Considerations of justice are also put forth to undermine another claim of those who oppose group residences. If justice demands that situations be treated the same unless there are relevant reasons for treating them differently, neighbors have no basis for demanding protection from (perceived or actual) “changes for the worse” in their neighborhoods. Suppose that the value of property in a neighborhood increases for some reason or that its “character” changes for the better. Neighborhood residents aren’t expected to pay for these benefits; rather, they enjoy them free of charge. Similarly, then, if the value of property or the character of neighborhoods should change for the worse, homeowners can’t expect to be protected from the resulting costs they must bear. When a person buys a home in a neighborhood, he or she necessarily assumes the risks of owning the home–and this includes both unanticipated benefits and unanticipated costs.
Finally, those who support the establishment of group homes in neighborhoods maintain that society should adopt those policies that bring about the greatest benefits while producing the least harm. Policies which facilitate rather than discourage the establishment of group homes in neighborhoods produce great benefits while causing no harm.
Group homes in residential areas provide persons with mental retardation with the obvious benefit of being able to live in typical community settings and participate in the normal rhythm of community life. As a result, these individuals have the equal opportunities to develop their capabilities and contribute their talents to the rest of society.
Second, establishing group homes in neighborhoods provides the public with meaningful contact with their mentally retarded peers. Such contact helps break down the stereotypes that have for so long stigmatized persons with mental retardation and unjustly excluded them from the rest of society.
Finally, the acceptance of group homes in neighborhoods promotes our social ideal of a moral community that is responsive to the needs of its members. It allows us to acknowledge our responsibility to promote the welfare of others, even when we perceive it as a burden.
While the need for housing for mentally retarded persons continues to grow, community acceptance has not. Resolving the ethical issues raised by the NIMBY syndrome is no easy task. We aspire to a society that will ensure the common good–where all persons are treated humanely and equally, and provided with the basic human necessities. But we also aspire to a society in which the burdens (perceived or actual) that must be borne to achieve this good are distributed equally among all members of society–and not to the backyards of a few.
For further reading:
Jo Ann Chandler & Sterling Ross, Jr., “Zoning Restrictions and the Right to Live in the Community,” in Michael Kindred, ed., The Mentally Retarded Citizen and the Law (New York: The Free Press, 1976).
Carl J. Dahlman, “An Economic Analysis of Zoning Limits,” in Bruce Johnson, ed., Resolving the Housing Crisis: Government Policy, Decontrol, and the Public Interest (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger Co., 1982).
Margot Hornblower, “Not in My Backyard, You Don’t” Time (June 27,1988), pp. 44-45.
NADD Bulletin Volume XI Number 5
Combating the NIMBY Phenomenon: Considerations for the Community Integration of People with Developmental Disabilities
Kyle Caler, Master’s Candidate, Temple University, School of Social Administration
The Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) phenomenon has been in existence throughout historical record acting as the embodiment of prejudice and discrimination, long before the term “NIMBY” was created (Dear, 1992). The role NIMBY plays in the development of group homes for the developmentally disabled may be less dramatic than that seen with nuclear power facilities and proposed waste management sites, however its effect on community integration should not be underestimated, as it can “sour” community-facility relations to the detriment of the individuals living there (Dear, 1992). One severe case of NIMBY attitudes towards group homes for the developmentally disabled occurred in Minnesota in 1992 (Takahashi & Dear, 1997). Community residents picketed out in front of the group home twenty hours a week for eight months. It is not hard to imagine what effect this had on the individuals living in the home. In examining where and how the NIMBY Phenomenon develops, two main factors come to the forefront.
Takahashi and Dear focus on the first factor arising from economic production, technological advancement, and land development (1997). As we develop as a society, certain undesirable facilities must be created to sustain development and coincide with technological advancements. These undesirable developments often bring negative factors to the surrounding areas such as noise, waste, contamination, or generalized fear (Takahashi & Dear, 1997; Gleeson & Memon, 1994). It is a community’s desire to avoid these consequences and others that constitute the first factor. This type of opposition can often be misconstrued as a form of elitism and parochialism, as it was early in the study of NIMBYism (Cameron & Crewe, 2006). This viewpoint is a dangerous place to develop a framework from as it discounts the importance of the American dream zeitgeist towards owning your own home. A more appropriate stance is to view this opposition from the eyes of the homeowner next to the perspective site. In one study, community residents stated that they feel the implementation of a group home is a violation of their individual rights (Piat, 2000). These same residents further explained their views, stating, “they felt tricked by the government, and by group home developers. Neither consulted nor informed about the arrival of the group home, they criticized the way the home was parachuted into the community” (Piat, 2000).
The second factor recognized in the development of NIMBY attitudes surrounds the stigmatization of service-dependent or nonproductive individuals, which classifies them as different, unacceptable, and even dangerous (Takahashi & Dear, 1997). This stigma can be seen in a variety of studies. One researcher stated this factor arises from a “thinly covered expression of ignorance, fear, distrust, and abhorrence to ‘strangers’ living in their midst” (Kim, 2000). Another researcher found that community residents believed that deinstitutionalization should not occur because the developmentally disabled were unable and unwilling to become integrated into the community (Piat, 2000). A final opposition created within the NIMBY phenomenon stigma states that people in group homes cannot integrate into a suburban community due to their socioeconomic backgrounds (Piat, 2000). Rothman documented this pseudo-exclusion stating that individuals were, “disqualified from taking a place in the community at large” (Rothman, 1971, p. 41). Notice he did not find them excluded but disqualified. If we apply the concept of enforced poverty, created by Nerney in conjunction with Rothman’s findings, it becomes evident that other factors in social disqualification include lack of real friendships and relationships and lack of disposable income (Nerney, 1988).
An additional point to examine within this second factor is the hierarchies of acceptance developed by Takahashi and Dear (1997). They found that longitudinally the attitudes of communities towards these perceived nonproductive individuals changes over time and place and can vary.
The three main oppositional arguments made by opponents of group homes were developed by Dear in 1990 as the perceived threat to property values, personal security, and neighborhood amenity (1992). As noted above, the threat to property values ties into the perceived destruction of the homeowner’s dream through the fear of lowered property values (Piat, 2000). This fear, however, has not been strongly supported by many studies looking at the property values around human service facilities (Dear, 1992; Cameron & Crewe, 2006; Pendall, 1999). Nonetheless this fear is constantly seen in the NIMBY literature and must be addressed within the framework for community integration.
The second oppositional argument typically seen deals with community members viewing the group home as a potential threat to the safety of their family. This argument ties back into the hierarchy of acceptance and community members’ stigmatization of certain groups of individuals. This is especially true if the residents display aggressive or abnormal behaviors in the community (Dear, 1992). David Sibley’s work is crucial to understand society’s need for spatial separation from the impure or unclean. Sibley examines the spatial problem in relation to a community’s perceived safety and determines it culminates in the desire to segregate or contain that which is deemed impure or unclean (1995). One can clearly see the need for sanctity within the North American suburb through the hierarchy of acceptance which actually rates the impurity of a particular group. Within these suburbs there is a preoccupation with order, conformity, and social homogeneity (Sibley, 1995). Sibley further explains the inner machinations of this process by stating that “family, suburb, and society all have the particular connotation of stability and order for the relatively affluent, and attachment to the system which depends for its continued success on the belief in core values is reinforced by the manufacture of folk devils, which are negative stereotypes of various ‘others.’” This space, or place where the two categories mix and become indistinct from one another, is called a liminal zone (Sibley, 1995).
A liminal zone is almost always present in any categorization system and this ambiguity causes anxiety within civilization because it creates a zone where civilization is not in control (Sibley, 1995). Sibley concludes that the list of people which comprise a society’s liminal zone is flexible and ever- changing depending upon the current situation (1995). This sounds exactly like Takahashi’s and Dear’s hierarchy of acceptance which they believe is volatile and synergistic (1997). It seems clear that in today’s society one group of people inhabiting the liminal zone are the developmentally disabled who live in the community, specifically suburbs. It is also clear that this is a result of deinstitutionalization. That which was once separate and out of mind has suddenly been reintegrated into society at its most protected point, the suburb, and opposition should be expected.
The final oppositional argument is focused on a potential decline in the overall quality of a neighborhood, specifically the affect certain groups’ physical presence will have on that quality (Dear, 1992). Piat saw this in her interviews with community residents who believed the residents of a group home would change the “social fabric” of their community (Piat, 2000). This perceived loss of security is similar to the fear in oppositional argument two in that it is often just a perception and not a factual consequence. That does not mean it should be ignored. A goal for our framework is to present the group home as a positive influence on the neighborhood, adding to and enriching the community instead of detracting from or draining it.
Having identified the two factors leading to the NIMBY phenomenon and the three main arguments championed by the opposition the final piece before developing a best practices framework for community integration is looking at trends on where the NIMBY phenomenon is likely to occur to see what, if any, purposeful conclusions can or should be made about locating group homes. The data from numerous studies finds parallels on two main points: opposition is seen most often in affluent neighborhoods (high income, male, well educated, professional, married, homeowner, living in large cities or its suburbs) and communities that perceive themselves as heavily saturated with health facilities or special housing (Cameron & Crewe, 2006; Dear, 1992; Segal et al., 1980; Takahashi & Dear, 1997). Secondly, outside of these two archetypes little generalization can be made about the potential responses from a community and attempts to predict NIMBY patterns according to location can be “risky” (Piat, 2000; Takahashi & Dear, 1997). This realization leads us to an important point as noted by Pendall, that no single stimulus can explain all opposition to group homes (1999). Combining this starting point with the person centered belief that deinstitutionalized individuals should have a choice of where they live renders any prequalifying of neighborhoods useless as community agencies should be prepared to face opposition at any location and begin the process of community integration no matter what level of hostility they encounter.
Beginning this framework for community integration from a person centered paradigm is necessary from a best practices standpoint. The final step before creating a framework for community integration is to examine community integration itself and what needs to be done to insure individuals are given the best opportunity to succeed within any given residential setting.
Attainment of Community Integration and Justifying its Facilitation
The definition of community acceptance used for the purposes of this article is the combination of positive community experiences with other members of the same community that establish an individual’s feeling of membership and belonging, which in turn leads to a sense of self that is connected to a physical location. The accomplishment of this definition is intrinsically linked with the role of the service and support organization that serve the individual. Oftentimes, provider organizations find themselves only in the role of providing, whether it is housing, programs, transportation, or recreation, and this can create an unintended view of the individual receive the supports as a consumer to these services. A consumer/provider relationship is not a negative connection , merely a limiting one. As Gardner and Carran (2004) suggest a redefinition of this relationship is necessary to enhance social networks and social capital for all people. This redefinition needs to focus on not only providing but also “bridging” or facilitating between people and community supports (Gardner & Carran, 2004).
Other definitions need to be changed as well in this process for it to truly combat NIMBYism and other forms of stigma currently associated with disability. Sullivan (1992) writes how the presence of community based services cannot alone insure community integration and that community integration itself must signify more than location to include having meaningful work, families, friends, and recreational activities. Walker (1999) declares that we have pigeon holed the term “community” to mean where a person lives and outlined their experiences there as either acceptance or opposition instead exploring what it means to have a “sense of place.” Metzel and Walker (2001) add that while the movement towards individualized supports has opened up choices, there must still be support for community participation in community placements with a variety of community members beyond staff based on individual choice and happiness. Taken together, these and other important writings lead us to the conclusion that, “providing individualized supports that offer opportunities for participation in places of one’s choosing does not necessarily guarantee that people will experience a sense of membership and belonging. Furthermore, neighbors, community members, and society as a whole have an obligation to confront and dispel rejecting attitudes, stereotypes and practices” (Metzel & Walker, 2001).
The definition then to be changed is the definition of who is responsible for community integration. It is not just the individual with a disability, not just the provider or service agency, not just the neighbors to a group home, not just the local businesses and organizations, not just the state, local, and federal government, it is all of them working together. We should strive to create tapestry of supports to support the many facets of an individual’s life. This seemingly lofty declaration is grounded in achievability. Taylor and Bogdan (1989) have shown that establishing relationships between community members and individuals with developmental disabilities, while “typically rooted” around family, religion, or humanitarian sentiments, regularly develop into true friendships. A process occurs in this transformation from relationship to friendship to effectively “delabel” the person with a disability until that aspect of the person becomes less present in the relationship. Taylor and Bogdan later conclude that while prejudice and discrimination against individuals with disabilities is a reality, this does not exclude the opportunity for genuine community relationships and the willingness of typical community members to accept individuals with disabilities. A useful comparison can be made between this struggle for community integration for individuals with developmental disabilities and the success of physically challenged individuals. Sullivan (1992) notes that by capitalizing on the expanded opportunities that resulted from their challenge of previously dominate attitudes, physically challenged individuals have demonstrated the folly of placing artificial ceilings on the abilities of entire groups of people who are often perceived as different and impaired.
A final consideration when looking at the justification of this framework for community integration is the basis from a provider point of view. A provider’s focus should not be looking to facilitate relationships for people because they have a disability, but instead on the tenets of Social Work. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) code of ethics has several values which strongly coincide with the community integration work as it relates to combating NIMBY (Soo Kim, 2000; Sullivan, 1992): (1) Social workers’ primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems; (2) social workers challenge social injustice; (3) social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person; (4) social workers recognize the central importance of human relationships. These ethical standards prescribe a professional responsibility for all social workers within the field of developmental disabilities to be committed to the fight for community integration (Soo Kim, 2000; Sullivan, 1992). Our role as social workers in this field must be to educate the general community about the process of deinstitutionalization that it is typically more humane, less costly, more effective, and usually a positive for all of society (Soo Kim, 2000). In addition, social workers must help people understand that the success of our community integration efforts substantively relies on their participation and adaptation to this process.
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