Troubled girls' home to leave Woodholme Neighbors objected to disruptive behavior

September 12, 1997|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

A group home for troubled girls is shutting down its operations in Pasadena and is looking to move to Baltimore or Baltimore County, much to the relief of its neighbors along Jumpers Hole Road.

"The facts directed us toward them leaving, and it was the right way," said Paul Higgins, president of the Woodholme Community Association. "It could look like a lynch mob, but we weren't ganging up on anybody. This hasn't been easy."

Directors of the Martin Pollak Project, the nonprofit agency based in Baltimore that runs the home, said they are moving the five girls who live there so they will be closer to their families, most of whom live in the city.

They also are getting away from tensions among the girls and the neighbors, who have complained that the girls are not properly supervised and that the house and grounds are in disarray.

"It was a question of do we stay and fight this situation, or do we factor in everything and leave," said Ross Ford, executive director of the project. "We have certain values, family values, and they were not being met."

Members of the Woodholme Community Association welcomed the group home in the 8000 block of Jumpers Hole Road with open arms eight years ago, said Irene Wish, who lives next door.

Since then, however, things have soured. Residents have fought with the Martin Pollak Project and the state Department of Human Resources, which refers girls to the home.

Tensions peaked at the beginning of the summer after several shouting matches on the street between the neighbors and the girls, and brawls in the street among the girls and their counselors. Neighbors said the girls often blocked the roadway and yelled obscenities at them.

"A community could not have done more than we did," said Wish. "We set out to support them in every way. It was just always one-sided. It's unfortunate it had to be this way."

Ford said it was in the best interest of all involved for them to move.

"We're looking now for a neighborhood where the kids will blend better, and that has schools that have appropriate classrooms for their needs."

The girls, between ages 12 and 18, have troubled backgrounds, including suicidal tendencies and violent behavior, and can't stay with their families. They will be gone from the Pasadena house within six months, Ford said.

Residents are still concerned about the future of the two-story frame house. Martin Pollak officials said they are not sure what they will do with the building.

The decision to move surprised some neighbors who said they had been pleased with some recent changes.

In a letter to the District 31 delegation, Martin Pollak officials said they had stepped up supervision, added staff and kept the girls inside the house rather than letting them hang out spend time in the front yard.

They also moved most of their recreational activities away from the home to areas such as parks and beaches.

Though the neighbors were slightly appeased, Ford said the home could not live with the changes.

"It is part of our values that the girls should be in the least restrictive environment possible," he said. "It's like they have been grounded for something they didn't do."

Pub Date: 9/12/97

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