Teen shelter upsets GJ neighbors

Unhappy with his neighbors at The House, a shelter for homeless teens near Seventh Street and Patterson Road, John Henry shows a sprinkler he has just had to have replaced for the third time after being broken by cars making U-turns.  Area residents have signed a petition outlining their complaints and asked the city of Grand Junction to close the shelter.

Some neighbors in the block that houses a homeless shelter for teenagers want their quiet cul-de-sac back.

Neighbors on a street in the area of Seventh Street and Patterson Road worry that property values will decline on their block of mostly well-kept brick homes now that one of the homes — a shelter called The House — has been operating on their street for the past year.

Neighbors say they have caught teenagers smoking in an abandoned barn and on a nearby backyard patio, had a mailbox and flag pole vandalized, had a sprinkler run over by a car, and twice caught teenagers having sex. They also are frustrated by an overall increase in traffic and an abundance of vehicles parked outside the shelter.

“I understand this is a city street, but this is ridiculous,” said Viki Bledsoe, who lives several homes down from The House. She claims to have seen teenagers having sex in a car outside her home, before one of them was dropped off at the shelter.

Neighbors on the block recently signed a petition outlining the complaints and asked the city of Grand Junction to close down The House, and “restore the integrity, peace and safety to the neighborhood.”

John Mok-Lamme, executive director of The House, operated by the nonprofit group, Karis, said he received a copy of the complaint, and noted it was signed by six neighbors. The block has 11 homes. Mok-Lamme said he is committed to working with neighbors to resolve the conflicts, but said he has only recently heard of the complaints.

“This is not a place for teens to come until they are ready to move on,” he said. “Respectful community behavior is what we are trying to teach teens.”

Mok-Lamme said auditors of the state-licensed facility indicated that staff members and activities at The House are in order.

In the past year, The House has provided shelter to 62 teenagers and 89 percent of those youths have transitioned into a stable home. Most of those teens have been reunited with family members. Of those 62 teens, only three had vehicles, Mok-Lamme said.

He also has instituted a limit of four vehicles parked in front of the home at a time, although that number could have ballooned during some events, he said.

Teenagers who seek shelter at The House have access to a case manager, a psychologist, a medical technician, a chaplain, and soon, a psychiatrist. Parents of teens and the Department of Human Services are notified within two hours of teens arriving at the shelter. Teenagers complete an exit plan or create goals about becoming self-sufficient. Many of the teens have jobs while attending school. Some plan to enter the military, or the job corps, and others plan to go to college. Some have been through Mesa County’s foster care system.

“It has rigorous guidelines. It’s not a flophouse,” Mok-Lamme said. “We’re going to do whatever we can to ensure positive behavior in the community.”

Mok-Lamme said the issues over neighbors seeing the teenagers smoking may have come from the recent audit, in which The House officials were advised that teenagers could not smoke on the back patio.

Mok-Lamme said only teenagers older than 18 at the shelter are allowed to smoke.

“We really care about the neighborhood,” he said. “We want it to be safe and adequate.”

The House, like all other homes on that street, are zoned R-4, or residential 4, which allows small group living facilities, according to the city of Grand Junction. The property is classified as a temporary shelter, allowing residents to live there for up to a month.

The shelter’s precise location isn’t being released to ensure the safety of the teenagers who live there.

In light of the complaints, Grand Junction Police Department’s Chief John Camper is working with The House to develop a plan to discuss the issues and work on possible solutions with the neighbors, according to city spokeswoman Sam Rainguet.

Neighbor Karen Troster said she has witnessed problems arise in her neighborhood since The House opened about a year ago.

She also claims to have caught teenagers having sex behind her fence, and said another time her high school-aged daughter felt threatened by a carload of teenagers while driving her grandfather near The House.

Troster said she’s complained to Mok-Lamme in person, but didn’t see much change so she filed the written complaint.

“If people are so supportive of this, move it next to your house.” Troster said. “It’s very upsetting. I don’t feel safe in my neighborhood.”


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And the NIMBY syndrome arises again….

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