Etobicoke home for developmentally disabled youth...
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May 16, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Etobicoke home for developmentally disabled youth under fire from residents, Councillor Doug Ford

‘You’ve ruined the community’: Ford tells Griffin Centre staff at raucous community meeting

Etobicoke Guardian

Staff of a residential home for developmentally disabled youth with mental health issues newly opened in a north Etobicoke neighbourhood faced an angry, anxious group of residents Thursday night.

Kipling Avenue and West Humber Boulevard area residents packed Toronto police 23 Division station’s community room on May 15 to hear from Griffin Centre staff and city staff. Many charged the residential home should move to another area of the city.

“I’ve never heard of a facility where the police come so many times,” one man said. “Something is very, very wrong with your facility that the police come so often. Why are you still licensed?”

Griffin Centre is a non-profit, multiservice mental health agency that operates five residential homes across the city and in Richmond Hill and offers programs and services funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Ministry for Children and Youth Services.

The centre recently purchased and renovated the house at 22 Jeffcoat Dr. where four challenged youth, some with autism, have lived for the past two months. All have learning issues and emotional problems, which include anxiety, depression, explosive anger and complicated family situations that prevent them from living at home, Deanna Dannell, Griffin Centre’s director of youth and family support services, told the crowd.

Staff are in the house “24/7” she said, adding staff are trained to deal with “aggressive and volatile behaviour, part of which is knowing when to call the police. Typically, we don’t have emergency services come as much as they have in the last few weeks.”

Asked the nature of police calls, a 23 Division officer explained police remove a child from the home under the Ontario Mental Health Act and take them to hospital when the child is a danger to himself or herself, or a danger to others, including other residents or home staff.

Ward 2 Etobicoke North Councillor Doug Ford arrived 25 minutes late for the meeting his office organized, making a campaign-style quip about snarled traffic and the city’s need for more subways.

Within 10 minutes of the meeting’s start and Dannell’s presentation, residents began yelling out comments and questions to the four Griffin Centre staff seated at the front of the room.

“This is not a place for mental people. This is a residential area. Why don’t you build a house out on a farm?” one man said.

Another man agreed: “There is nothing wrong with what the Griffin group is doing with these children. They’re just doing it in the wrong location.”

One woman complained residents received little notice before the house opened: “Do you think two days is ample notice for us to react to this? Wouldn’t it be better for you to tell us before?”

Dannell invited residents to an upcoming open house.

“What do I say to my three kids under the age of seven when one of these kids freaks out?” asked one woman, who declined to give her name. “When my child says, ‘Mommy, why are there police here again?’ What do I say?”

David Melgarejo lives next door. He alleged a youth throwing keys caused him concern for his one-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter’s safety.

“The solution is for them to move out. Locate the facility in another place. This is a community for people, not for that. I have nothing against the kids. If the kids need help, they need help.”

Theo Lagakos called the new residential home a “polarizing issue”.

“The method in which Griffin Centre came into the neighbourhood telling us by letter a week before with no open house...” he said. “People are worried. They don’t know what’s going on. A small house in a residential neighbourhood converted into a facility is not what’s best for the kids.”

Dannell further explained the residential home is not an open custody facility, where youth ordered by the youth justice courts serve their sentences, nor is it a detention centre.

Midway through the hour-long meeting, Ford seemed to have made up his mind.

“We can’t have fire trucks and police cars and EMS there all the time and eight cars parked on the street. You’ve ruined the community,” Ford told Griffin Centre staff.

In the next breath, he said he would ask them to relocate the home.

“You can’t destroy a community like this. People have worked 30 years for their home...My heart goes out to kids with autism. But no one told me they’d be leaving the house. If it comes down to it, I’ll buy the house myself and resell it.”

Ford accused centre staff of not being up front with him about the home, a charge they denied saying they explained the facility to him at a meeting in his office months ago.

Ford urged another meeting in two weeks with centre staff, city staff and two community representatives: “I want to work with you and move forward,” he said.

Ford roused the crowd one last time at meeting’s end.

“I’m going to get the you-know-what kicked out of me. Tomorrow, I’ll be inundated by every media in the country saying I don’t like kids with autism,” he said.

One man asked if the youth had criminal backgrounds. The answer was no.

Ford asked if any of the four are sex offenders. The answer was no.

Dannell said in an interview after the meeting, she understood residents’ concerns and that centre staff are “committed to having a relationship with the community. We know from experience it takes a year” for that relationship to grow, she said. “We want to demystify mental health. Understand these are children. This is their home.”

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(9) Comment

By Gail | MAY 18, 2014 05:32 PM
Mr. Fords comments that he belives that those with a Autism are those who break into cars. I would bet that that it is someone who is mainstream that did that they are not criminals nor are they sex offender. Living in a community that had a large hospital that was closed in favor of group homes i heard many of these things all be it with out the criminal part but that was 30 years ago. These people have worked 30 years for their homes so should it have been put in an area where the people have only spent a couple of years for their homes? This is a case of fear mongering He will buy the home and re sell it what if it isn't for sale? put them on a farm what are they going to do on a farm they aren't farmers?
By Paul | MAY 18, 2014 12:35 PM
Lets see if I have this right , the residents in this area are upset because of this group home , understandable but why aren't they also upset over criminals like their Mayor and his family . Are they saying there okay with crack heads but not for children with with autism ? I would like to ask those families that are so concern with telling their children why the police are at the autism home and see if they have a problem with me supplying their children with some crack to smoke
By James | MAY 17, 2014 11:39 PM
Residents of Edenbridge Dr. are outraged. One of the houses is a notorious property that frequently attracts police. “We can’t have police there all the time and 8 cars parked on the street. You’ve ruined the community!” the councillor exclaimed. Other residents were upset. “What do I say to my kids when the owner is freaking out?” asked one woman. “When she says, ‘Why are there police here again?’ What do I say?”Another added “The solution is for him to move. This is a community for the people, not for that. I have nothing against the owner; he needs help.” The councillor finished “You can’t destroy a community like this. My heart goes out to people with drug addictions. But no one told me he’d be leaving the house.”
By bobo | MAY 17, 2014 09:34 PM
It's nice to see Ford Nation doesn't have the resourcefulness to have found this article. So for the comments here instill a sense of hope in humanity.
By bobo | MAY 17, 2014 09:31 PM
“When my child says, ‘Mommy, why are there police here again?’ What do I say?” Well Dear, It won't be long Until Mayor Ford is in Jail or dead, and then there won't be any more domestic violence or drug complaints about his house any more.
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