Disability news

US community for disabled residents to house drug abusers and those with behavioural problems

Arial view of the houses on Turkey Hill

A street in a small town in Illinois specifically reserved for disabled residents is to be revamped to house drug addicts and those with mental health conditions.

For the past 40 years the twenty homes on Turkey Hill in Belleville have been home for adults with learning disabilities, providing a safe and friendly neighbourhood for their families as well as offering jobs suited to their needs.

But last year the project, run by St Clair Associated Vocational Enterprises [SAVE], was shut down when the state introduced a new system to encourage disabled people back into the mainstream community. 

When all the residents had moved out SAVE made an agreement with Comprehensive Behavioral Center [CBHC] to rehouse their clients in 15 of the 17 homes.

The CBHC has been awarded a $537,000 federal Department of Housing and Urban Development grant to support Turkey Hill’s new community of individuals struggling with their mental health, drug abusers, homeless or behavioural problems.

Announcing the plan, CBHC’s website states: ‘Our mission is to provide quality individualized essential services for people in need of emotional, rehabilitative and social support, on a twenty-four (24) hour basis, in the least restrictive environment.’

Local neighbourhoods, who originally presumed the street was intending to welcome migrants from Chicago, have expressed concern the new residents will cause harm and violence to their peaceful community.

Ginger Miller, who lives in the area, told the Belleville News-Democrat: 'I worry about more than anything are drive-by shootings or people getting into fights, and then you have gunfire going off.

'I know the Freeburg police don't have the manpower to patrol it regularly, and our county police are already stretched thin.'

Last Wednesday, 19th June, Frank Heiligenstein, from nearby Freebug, was about to run an agenda on behalf of the Citizens Federation of St. Clair County titled ‘The relocation of migrants from Chicago to the Turkey Hill SAVE site' - until he heard the street was to house people under the CBHC.

'We might have been better off with migrants coming in because they aspire to go to work someplace,' he said. 

'We have several facilities out here... that use migrants, legally and illegally. Some of them have to use them to sustain their operations.'

But SAVE executive director Paul Wibbenmewyer believes there is no need for concern.

He told the publication: The homes will be put to a use that isn't very different from what we've done in the past. We served a population that had challenges,' he told the newspaper.

'The people that the HUD grant is designed to assist have challenges of their own.'

CBHC executive director Joe Harper also tried to ensure locals their community would come to no harm and benefit from the new residents.

'We're attempting to help them by giving them a stable place to live so they can become contributing members of the community,' he said.

[ Comprehensive Behavioral Center plans to have to have at least one employee onsite at all times and lay on a minibus to shuttle residents to and from the neighbourhood. ]

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