Having mentally retarded adults move into the community in group homes, a project that not long aog sparked furious reactions in two neighborhoods and a court suit in a third is new a quietly accepted fact of daily life on three Columnia streets.
Twelve mentally handicapped adults have moved into four community houses operated in Columbia by the Howard County Association for Retarded Citizens, Inc. By October, the association expects to have 20 clients in five houses.
All the retarded persons held jobs or go to workshop or training programs during the day. All attned chuch in Columbia and handle their own personals hopping and errands.
"It's almost like having any other quiet neighbor who you wan't see much." said Marilyn Gilsons, who lives on a street where the association rents ten of the 27 town houses.
Neighbors agree that
Neighbors agree that contrary to what some had feared, property values have not been affected, problems for the most part have been mimimal and that the subject basically, is no longer even a matter of conversation.
They add though, that with the exception of a few families, little interaction takes place between the retarded people and other residents, although chance encounters are polite and cordial.
They also agree with association officials assessment that any remaining ill-feeling is directed at the association and its methods, ad not at the retarded peiple who live in the community.
Most said neighborhood resentment centered on the association's failure inform residents about the program instead letting the word press through rumors. They added they were also dissatisfied with answers about the project when meetings eventually were held at community requests.
The association opened its first and so far, only group home last October in an $80,000, seven-bedroom house it bought on Raindream Hill in the village of Wilde Lake. Nine of the 15 other families on the street went to court to try to stop HCARC from coning in.
Planned to house eight retarded persons and the houseparents, the home still has only three clients in residence and is on its second set of houseparents.
The director said the remaining five clients will move in by October after some $20,000 in state funds is received to make safety-related renovations required for a group home license.
Neighbors on Raindream Hill say that despite the law suit, the house has been bitterness, either toward the clients or among families on the street.
Neighbors who favored the group home, however, noted that they still regard as unfair the "bad public image" and resulting by their neigbors who opposed the home.
In December, HCARC opened two three-bedroom twon houses it had leased for clients onRader Lane, several miles away in the village of Oakland Mills. Two or three families started a petition against the homes, but the attempt died for lack of support, accoreing to neighbors.
The agency rented two houses on the same street simply because they were available and the rents fell within the limits set by the federal rent subsidy program, Lovell said.
Two houses so near each other also mean that equipment, such as lawn movers and barbeque grills, can be shared and the counselors can occasionally spell each other, he said. "And we didn't think our six residents were going to inundate any one particular neighborhood," the director added.
The fourt HCARC house opened May 1 on Hildebrand Court in the Village of Harper's Choice.