Residents who voiced concerns at the Rutledge Borough Council’s August meeting about harassment and threats by a woman who lives in a group home in the unit block of Sylvan Ave. were told by Mayor Kevin Cunningham to call police each time an incident occurs.
“You are not going to be a ‘pain’,” Cunningham told the residents.
A woman who lives across the street from the group home said she is worried because one of the home’s residents harasses her young daughter. Other residents complained about threats to their safety and the racial slurs they often hear from the woman. Council was told the woman began screaming at 6 a.m. on Aug. 7 and continued for two hours and another woman said the group home resident threatened to kill her husband.
Swarthmore Police Sgt. William Thomas, who was at the Council meeting on behalf of the neighboring police department that provides police services to Rutledge under a contract, told Council and the audience that police have arranged for two involuntary commitments to a crisis center for the resident but she is not kept there for any length of time.
The monthly police report read at the meeting by the mayor notes that the group home resident’s behavior is listed as being “aggressive towards other residents in the house.”
Borough secretary Dawn Marie Bascelli said she has notified Northwestern Human Services in Lafayette Hills, Montgomery County, the company that operates the group home, about the situation. And borough residents who live near the group home said there has never been a problem since the home began operating almost 20 years ago.
The Sylvan Ave. house began operating as a group home under the Federal Fair Housing Act in 1997 despite two packed zoning hearings where most of the residents in attendance voiced their opposition.
At the second hearing they were told by attorneys that federal law superseded local zoning laws and the group home was allowed to begin operation.
At the first part of the zoning hearings, officials with Life Guidance Services, the applicant for the zoning change, testified that the four apartments in the house would be converted into a single-family home with separate bedrooms for the eight male residents who would live there. There would be round-the-clock supervision and case managers would visit the clients at the home.
Over the years both men and women have come to live at the home.