Several Sulphur residents are livid over three community homes, including this one at 1909 Olene Drive, entering their neighborhoods and asked the city to force the company to cease construction. But city officials say they can't do anything because their ''hands are tied.'' (Michael Cooper / American Press
Last Modified: Sunday, July 14, 2013 10:26 PM
SULPHUR — Several residents are livid over three community homes entering their neighborhoods and asked the city to force the company to cease construction. But city officials say they can’t do anything because their “hands are tied.”
Evergreen Life Services is bringing three community homes to three different neighborhoods in the city. Each will house six people with “intellectual and developmental disabilities.” Councilman Randy Favre and Mayor Chris Duncan said the city can’t legally stop them because of ordinances and laws put in place in 2003, before members of the current administration took office.
The houses have already been purchased at 1909 Olene Drive, 2108 Division Road and 3014 Weil Drive, and residents and city officials expressed their concerns over Evergreen’s “lack of transparency” in bringing the homes to the neighborhoods.
“I believe a lot of this could have been resolved had we known in advance that you’re coming into our neighborhoods and that there is a possibility of group homes coming in here,” Favre said. “All of a sudden construction permits are given in neighborhoods, and the first time neighborhoods find out is by seeing trucks tearing up concrete.”
Kent Craft, executive vice president of Evergreen, said the goal of the community homes is to blend in with the aesthetic of the neighborhoods and be “good neighbors,” but several residents said a parking lot is being poured in front of the Olene Drive home.
Favre questioned the validity of the goal to blend into the neighborhood with a parking lot being constructed.
“Wouldn’t it have been better to put a parking lot in the back ... you now have this great big parking lot and you say you want to blend into the neighborhood, but you have this great big parking lot that’s sitting out there like a sore thumb,” Favre said. “Would it not have been better to put it in the backyard? It makes common sense that if you’re trying to blend aesthetically into the neighborhood that you do what’s best with what you can to make sure you blend.”
Hilda Trahan, Evergreen’s parish director, said “the only discussion right now has been to take up the driveway ... and that’s all that’s been done is the driveway has been taken out and a new one is being poured. No other plans have been discussed.” Councilman Stuart Moss rebutted, telling Trahan that the front yard of the Olene Drive home is “all dug up right now. There’s a crew out there this minute that’s working on digging up the front yard to put a parking lot, just so you know.”
Aaron Fletcher, a resident on Division Road, said he and his neighbors oppose the home in their neighborhood and asked Evergreen and city officials if their neighborhoods are against the community homes, will the city and Evergreen cease construction.
Duncan said officials checked local, state and federal laws and that the city cannot legally stop Evergreen from establishing homes in the community.
Craft told Fletcher that Evergreen’s plans are to “be a part of this wonderful community and the individuals that we serve will be a wonderful part of this community. Like we all in this wonderful country that we live in, have right to live in our communities and those rights are extended to the individuals we serve.”
Fletcher said he and his neighbors weren’t aware of a community home moving onto Division Road until “trees started coming down,” and he and his neighbors’ rights “don’t need to be infringed upon by people who force their way into our communities.”
Fletcher said he and some of his neighbors may pursue legal action to prevent the home on Division Road.
Moss said the only action the city can take against Evergreen is to establish that they are a commercial business.
Duncan and both councilmen said they were unaware of the homes locating in the city because the city doesn’t typically inquire into the purchase of homes. Duncan, Favre and Moss said they weren’t aware until residents began contacting them with concerns.
“(We) didn’t know what was going on in these homes either, no clue whatsoever,” Moss said. “We don’t do research on the buys and sales and the in-between corporations. I’m sorry that the city did not know, but they weren’t required to bring anything to us at that time.”
Mike Hanson, a resident on Division Road, said Evergreen operated “under a veil of secrecy” and has caused him and other neighbors to “question (Evergreen’s) motives.”
“We have a group of people in Sulphur now who are looking to put in an RV park. They took the initiative to visit with the people who were going to be impacted by that construction,” he told Evergreen officials. “You didn’t do that. You came in and essentially made a purchase under a veil of secrecy. You came into our neighborhoods and started pushing down trees. If we hadn’t asked what was going on, we still wouldn’t know. That’s not being a good neighbor. You have caused distrust and we are questioning your motives.”
W.D. Ertell, a resident near a community home, said he also “does not want this in my subdivision.”
Sharon Gomez, Evergreen’s regional vice president, said people living in Evergreen’s community homes are “simply people who learn slower than the average person.”
“They can learn and given the right support they can become productive and contributing members of communities,” she said.
Gomez said people living in the homes are not mentally ill, are not substance abusers and do not have records of criminal behavior.
She said each home has supervision by trained professionals and support assistants at all hours, and the community homes, which are considered single-family dwellings, exceed local zoning, building code, fire marshal and sanitation requirements.
Craft said there are five community homes in Sulphur and 29 in Calcasieu Parish and that the homes blend into the neighborhoods they’re in. “There are no features to the exterior of the homes that single them out as different,” he said.
Posted By: Steve Perkins On: 7/24/2013
Title: This is tipical of "Sulphur Thinking"
Not much has changed in my 56 years about Sulphur People. Sad as that is, "Old School", people here still think inside the box, Their Box, and they don't see past it or let anyone else in it, but they expect everyone else to think and do as they do. That 's the sad part. These people are as Hard as this desk and as tight fisted Clutching something they'll never be able let go of. That is a belief that are somehow "Better" than their neighbors. They are the ones that are truly "Handicapped"!
Posted By: Sarah of Gilmar Acres On: 7/19/2013
Apparently, the "citizens" complaining of bigotry are the ignorant ones - the ones who have not been hearing what the problem really is. It's not the people in the home, it's the people who own the business.
Posted By: Resident On: 7/16/2013
Title: Ignorance is not bliss
I am a resident on Olene Dr. in Sulphur and I fully support the home. My very sensitive, concerned neighbors are so ignorant they don't even know what to be angry about. I fully understand being concerned that commercial property may be going up in the neighborhood, but let's stop and think for a minute, this is a RESIDENTIAL home for people with mental and physical developmental disabilities. Key word being residential. However, my neighbors our using the commercial property as an excuse to argue why this house should not be allowed to be a home. I have heard more of them complain about the training of the staff, the number of residents living on the property (which is 6 NOT 8), and cars being parked on the road and in the yard. One person even showed concern about the contractor doing the work. Who really cares? So let's address the REAL issue Gilmar Acres, your ignorance is definitely not my bliss.
Posted By: Annette Gary On: 7/15/2013
"Amy" who is too afraid to post her last name says she works in the "field"...well I feel sorry for any clients you might have. I worked in this field also. Clients' diagnoses are CONFIDENTIAL and to describe the behaviors (that's the correct way to spell it by the way) of SOME of those who cannot care for themselves only makes you seem like a heartless person who has NO business working in this field. I never witnessed any clients who had these behaviors hurting anyone and the professionals who work with them ensure that they are not a danger to themselves or others. I am appalled at the callousness of the people who are against this. They deserve to live happy, fulfilling lives just like everyone else...where would you have them live??? Locked up in some institution??
Posted By: Katrina Primeaux On: 7/15/2013
You people make me sick...They have rights just like you do. If you don't like the homes being built in the neighborhood I suggest you MOVE OUT...
Posted By: CAS On: 7/15/2013
Title: Bad Idea
I live next to one of these ‘houses’. I am still unsure how a home can turn into a commercially run business. We have various issues with the ‘community home’. Their explanation of ‘outbursts’ has resulted in grown men storming down our street in the middle of the day carrying a butcher knife. Thank god no neighborhood kids where outside playing. Cops get called, cops leave; “everything is back to ‘normal’” they say. The companies rotate day and night staff; but just like jail, the residents of the ‘community home’ know when they are not being properly supervised. I have witnessed ‘community home residents’ inside my vehicles, peaking into neighbors houses, stealing items, etc. The residents of these homes are simply moved to another neighborhood when there is an issue. With all that said, these types of homes should NOT be welcomed in any neighborhood. If you disagree, please purchase your neighbor’s house and donate it to one of these ‘for profit’ companies.
Posted By: Amy On: 7/14/2013
Title: Not Discrimination, People just want information
As someone working in the field, I know that people can be good or bad. Have good or bad behaviours, no matter the population. I work with people of this population and I live by the Olene house. I think the main concern for everyone is that the community should be informed of the behaviours of those living in the home. Some people in group homes have history of inappropriate sexual behaviours, kleptomania or serious emotional outburst in which they act out striking staff or breaking belongings; if these behaviours will be present in these people, the community has a right to know. Our kids ride bikes and play on these streets. If they have never displayed these types of behaviours, then just tell us. That is all we ask, is to be informed. If they will have 24 hour staff then tell us that. We just want to know. So we can take any precautions if they are necessary. If this is a population that has never shown deviate behavior than let us know. We just would like to be informed. Some people with developmental disabilities have other conditions that present in which they present a danger to themselves or others. It may not be popular to say, but is the truth none the less. If that is the case, then we should be informed. If it isn't the case, then of course there is no issue. The other issue is that this is a restricted neighborhood. We must follow rules concerning fencing the front yard, size of the driveway, structures such as shops being in the front yard, landscaping, etc. If they don't follow these rules, will leeway now be givin to other residents of this neighborhood. I would like to fence my front yard and if they can concrete the front yard, can i fence my yard?
Posted By: Amanda On: 7/14/2013
This is stupid to complain about!
Posted By: Romona Simon On: 7/14/2013
All I can say is sad sad people. I live in Vinton and have a group home 5 houses down from me I walk to the store often and every time I pass some of the residents are outside on the porch either drinking coffee are playing basketball are just sitting on a swing watching the cars go by they are very friendly they tell you hello are wave and smile, what a great thing to see they are living a wonderful life and not bothering anyone. Those people who are worried about these group homes need to check themselves because "GOD" does not like ugly and that's what you people are being.
Posted By: Stephanie Tackett On: 7/13/2013
Title: So sad...
I'm proud to say I'm a evergreen employee as well as a sulphur resident! It breaks my heart to see the reactions of some of these people! They are acting like it hardened criminals moving in their neighbor hood! I guess they would be really shocked to find out just how many group homes there are in Sulphur between all the local companies! Evergreen, Rescare, Carc and I'm sure they may be more that I'm not familiar with. You never know what could happen to yourself, your friends, your family...you may someday need assisted living! I pray for these heartless people!
Posted By: Natalie On: 7/13/2013
Title: Blatant Discrimination
It is sad to see that even city officials are so blatant in discriminating against the developmentally disabled future residents of these homes under the guise of transparency issues. The idea that people have a problem with this is laughable. If people in these neighborhoods don't like the way Evergreen is designing the parking on their own property, then perhaps the residents should have created an HOA that sets forth rules for everyone to follow.
Discrimination against individuals with disabilities is nothing new, and it is really a shame that Mayor Duncan didn't take the opportunity to welcome the new residents. I am shocked to read an article wherein both Sulphur residents AND city officials so openly spew hatred about new neighbors moving in. If this was done to me, I would probably sue the city of Sulphur.
Posted By: Deana Haynes On: 7/13/2013
Title: disgrace to humanity
This is ridiculous. You don't have to get permission to live in a neighborhood. My son has downs syndrome and lives with me. Every where we have lived the neighbors have loved him, looked out for him and invited him over. These are justpeople with disabilities who want to lead as close to a normal life as anyone else and b treated as such. I always thought sulphur had friendly people but now they are treating their citizens as though they were criminals. I bet if they checked the sexual predator registery they may find many who live around them.nd they don't have to get neighborhood approval just send a notice. I would much rather ppl with disabilities than sexual predators in my neighborhood. Next thing u know they will be kicking out the elderly when they are disabled are get altimzers. This is a shame to the residents and town .
Posted By: Mike Adams On: 7/13/2013
Title: No anger needed!
You are complaining about a group home in your mist, you complain that they are doing this “under a veil of secrecy”. When asked what they were building they told you, it was no secret. I you had a child or sibling that was afflicted and needed a group home would you still be complaining.
Posted By: Bridget On: 7/13/2013
I would love to live next door to a group home for people with “intellectual and developmental disabilities”. They are some of the most loving and unbiased people around! Maybe next time Evergreen can come buy out in my direction!
Posted By: tim hall On: 7/13/2013
Title: ur leaders
remember them at election time and quit puttin the same ones in
Posted By: Susan Prejean On: 7/13/2013
They should be ashamed! People are so self centered. Worrying about a few trees instead of supporting people with special needs gaining some independence and support. Possibly some have no other place to go. RIDICULOUS!! I would be shamed for my name to be in this article opposing these homes.
Posted By: Sondra Guillory Tyler On: 7/13/2013
This is an absolute disgrace Sulphur!! These people are not criminals !! How many of you residents attend church? Not paying much attention to the Bible I guess!! What you do to the lest of my people!! Hello!!
Posted By: Jim Miller On: 7/13/2013
Title: Sulphur citizen
I think the people in this neighborhood need to get off their high and might I add "ignorant and bigoted" horse. These are citizens who have a right to live as we do in a nice residential community instead of being pushed into hospitals with concrete walls. These are developmentally disabled citizens who have done nothing wrong other than being born with slower developmental abilities. These are people, and could be anyone in our family. Why should they have to live their lives in an institutional building and enviroment, they want to enjoy life like everyone else. This is disgusting that these "neighbors" are griping about trees NOT on their property being cut down to make parking available on property so they won't later be complaining about the blockage of the flow of traffic on the street due to a few cars on the side of the road. This way those that have business with this home of family members checking on their disabled love one can park safely in THEIR yard. My God people you should be ashamed of yourselves...SMH