Dunn Testifies on Group Homes


By Christopher O’Brien and Christine Stuart
Group homes became a hot topic at the State Capitol last week as dozens of citizens and public officials testified at a day-long public hearing over a bill proposed by Wolcott State Rep. Robert Sampson. That proposal would require that a public hearing be held in municipalities when a group home is proposed. Dozens of advocates and public officials testifying on the merits of the bill as well as some citizens who thought the concept was too broad. Group home agencies can house a range of clients – some have residents who simply need assistance with daily living tasks and others can house convicted criminals with psychological problems. Still others may have residents enrolled in supervised rehabilitative programs. Most of these have staff on site and have ongoing monitoring. However, under current law the placement and existence of these homes is immune from local zoning regulations.

Several municipal leaders testified to the committee in support of the public hearing mandate. Their reasons ranged from the “not in my backyard” mentality to public safety concerns. However, the majority of the supporters seemed to be looking for better avenues of communication when it comes to group homes coming into their towns.

Wolcott Mayor Tom Dunn said his support of the bill had nothing to do with not wanting group homes in his town. There are six group homes within a quarter-mile of his house and 12 in his town, he told the committee. “Nobody wants to discriminate against anybody else,” he said, adding that people just want information.

Dunn said that typically a letter is sent out to residents that a group home is moving in and that’s about all the information they get. As a public official he wants more communication so he has more information to give the residents of his town, he said.

North Haven Fire Chief Vincent Landisio said the lack of information on the specifics of group homes also poses a public safety risk and puts residents of the group home at risk since emergency responders don’t know their specific needs.

“We have 25 group homes in North Haven. We welcome them. This is not a NIMBY issue,” he said. “This is a public safety issue.”

Landisio said that his fire department sometimes only finds out about the needs of group home residents when they respond to an emergency call and learn there is a group home at the address. He said they have found six group homes in town “by accident.”

It’s important for emergency responders to have that information, he said, since some residents may have limited evacuation capabilities.

More can be read about group homes and Dunn’s comments at Connecticut News Junkie which covers legislative news.

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