Residents of Woodlawn neighborhood oppose group home for juveniles proposed by church

September 24, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Residents of a Woodlawn neighborhood are objecting to a planned group home for troubled juveniles.

The home, which would have a limit of eight boys ages 11 to 15, is being proposed by Maximum Life Church Community Development for a house the church owns in the 1900 block of Summit Ave. Neighbors voted against the home at a community meeting last week, saying the area is filled with senior citizens who fear an increase in crime and the disruption of their quiet community.

"My house has been broken into, my car has been broken into and it has been stolen," said Pam Pettingill, who lives three doors from the house with her mother, a senior citizen. "Now we're going to bring some juvenile delinquents in? There are enough of them already."

Organizers of the home said they are working on a licensing proposal to submit to the Department of Juvenile Justice and want to work with the community. Church officials said the project -- known as Community Outreach to Parents and Youth, or COPY -- is an attempt to help troubled young people in Woodlawn. Staff members will provide around-the-clock supervision, they said.

"The whole idea is that instead of shipping children off to detention-like facilities, they can remain in their community," said the Rev. Carroll Johnson, church pastor. "They can continue to go to their schools and continue to be a part of the community they live in."

Duane Johnson, a church member who lives across the street from the home, said he believed some residents were objecting to the project because of racial bias.

"You have older white people scared of young black kids coming into the community," Johnson said. "They can't see that this is positive project aimed at steering these kids in the right direction."

William Obriecht, an organizer of last week's meeting and a member of the Woodlawn Community Conservation Group, said residents are more concerned that their area seems to have a high concentration of group homes.

"There would still be a problem if these were a group of young, white, juvenile delinquents," Obriecht said. "The problem is that there seems to be two or three ZIP codes in the county where most of these homes are being placed."

Pettingill said that while many residents agreed that such a home is needed to help the area's youth, placing the children on Summit Avenue with older residents would not provide a positive environment for the youngsters.

"I'd love to see interaction [between the older residents and the troubled youth], but I don't think you are going to get it with people who are so afraid," she said.

Pub Date: 9/24/96

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