Unhappy ending for a group home Despite neighborhood welcome, teen facility failed in Pasadena.

September 15, 1997

THE CLOSURE of a group home for teen-age girls in Pasadena is unfortunate. Locating group homes is difficult to begin with. Experiences such as this only reinforce resistance to accommodating residences for people with social, mental or physical problems.

Unlike many neighborhoods that automatically oppose group homes, the Woodholme Community Association welcomed the Martin Pollak Project home for troubled girls eight years ago. The community was genuinely interested in maintaining a good relationship with the people running the home, as well as the half dozen adolescent girls who live in it.

Unfortunately, the good feelings deteriorated. The house's unkempt appearance was disturbing. Even more serious was the recent behavior of the home's residents. The girls congregated in the street outside the house, yelled obscenities at neighbors and openly fought with their counselors.

Understanding that these girls, between 12 and 18 years old, had serious social and personal problems, the neighbors were willing to make allowances. They voiced their concerns to the supervisors of the house and to the Martin Pollak officials. The officials decided to keep the girls inside; they weren't allowed to hang out in the yard, where most of the trouble started.

While neighbors found this to be a satisfactory solution, the counselors felt it was unfair to the girls. Martin Pollak officials eventually decided, and rightly so, that confining the girls is unacceptable. Instead, they decided it would be best to move to Baltimore or Baltimore County.

Group homes are an inescapable reality of suburban life. When communities welcome them and act as good neighbors, the managers of these homes need to make every effort to reciprocate.

It's a good rule of thumb that the most unobtrusive group homes are the most successful. If they are well-maintained, they blend into the surroundings. The same is true for the home's residents. If their behavior is appropriate for the community, no one is likely to notice or complain. A household of energetic adolescents needed much better supervision than they received at this home.

Pub Date: 9/15/97

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