It is hard to imagine that in this day and age, when so many barriers have been torn down for so many individuals and groups, that community members would struggle to keep four developmentally disabled adults out.
And to do so based on what appears to be nothing but unsubstantiated and unconfirmed fears.
But that is exactly what is happening in the Town of Boston, where several community members have rallied against the construction of a group home at the corner of Cole and Omphalius roads.
Swift objections gave rise among several residents upon learning of the group home plans a couple of years ago. Town officials deployed resources, filing a motion to try to keep the structure from being built. To its credit, the state continued to push.
Still, there is enough resistance to require the assistance of Housing Opportunities Made Equal, the region’s largest fair housing organization. HOME recently filed a federal lawsuit claiming the town discriminated against people with disabilities by refusing to issue a building permit.
Town officials insist they are not opposed to group homes. Others are located in the community. Opponents would have the public believe that the remoteness of the property, which does not have ready access to a service station or a garage, is of concern. In their most honest moments, they talk about uncertainty over who would be served and whether there would be sex offenders among those housed.
The point made by the president of Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled, the Buffalo organization sponsoring the home, should be noted: “Of the 1,600 people we serve, only seven are registered sex offenders.” The group home would have a staff member on duty 24 hours a day.
Community Services has 40 group homes across the region. It’s too bad that, for the first time, it has had to file a lawsuit in order to build a new home. The town had its concerns aired. The state recommended the group home move forward. The acting commissioner of the State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities had it right. The town’s concerns are important but, in this case, based on “speculation and conjecture.”
The developmentally disabled adults who would reside in the group home are individuals who, as their parents grow older, would have nowhere else suitable to go.
“It’s very troublesome that we’re still dealing with these type of issues a decade and half into the 21st century,” said Scott Gehl, HOME’s executive director. “These are the sorts of battles that happened in the 1980s.”
This cannot be the outcome the good people of the Town of Boston want.