After a vocal meeting during which the operators of several group homes in Davenport’s 4th Ward heard the complaints of neighbors, promises of change were met with some relief.
About 70 people attended the meeting Thursday at Davenport City Hall that was hosted by Alderman Ray Ambrose, 4th Ward.
Ambrose called the meeting after he received complaints from his constituents about group homes at 2854 Northaven Road, 2835 Washington St. and 1520 W. Hayes St.
The homes on Northaven Road and Hayes Street are operated by REM Community Services Iowa, while the one on Washington Street is operated by Mary Allen.
“I feel good about what we got accomplished tonight,” said Brian Gall, who lives in the 2800 block of Washington Street.
Gall and his girlfriend, Jennifer Gaskey, told of several incidents involving residents.
“Our complaints have not been about the homes’ residents,” Gall said. Instead, their concerns have to do with the seemingly lack of care and oversight of the residents, he said.
Issues of parking and of the homes’ lawns not being mowed, as well as a few incidents when police have to be called, were raised Thursday.
Davenport Police Chief Frank Donchez said the vast majority of times when police are called to the group homes, there is no need to make an arrest of the person with mental issues.
However, while arresting a group home resident is the last resort, Donchez said there are times when an arrest has to be made to protect the resident and the public.
“There’s been that reduction in state funding so there’s a gap in services and the police department is the line of last resort,” Donchez said. “At times we have no other choice because they won’t take them at the hospital and they won’t take them at any other facility and they end up going to jail, and it’s not right."
Patrick Costigan, regional director for REM, said he was not aware of the magnitude of the problem, and admitted that the company has not done a good job of communicating with the neighbors of the group homes.
“We all understand that our residents deserve the opportunity to live the life you and I lead,” he said. “They just need some help."
Costigan said the company will be much more responsive to the needs of the neighbors, and take a look at how the residents are being treated by staff.
Mary Allen said she would make sure neighbors have her phone number and that she can be at the home in minutes.
“If you come to me with a complaint, I’ll listen and we’ll take care of it,” Allen said. “It does take a community to help our residents with special needs.”
Brian Zaehringer, who also lives in the 2800 block of Washington Street, said the meeting helped a lot.
"They’ve made a commitment to do better, so we’ll see if this is something that will last for years or if it’s just for 30, 60, or 90 days," he said.
Sen. Joe Seng, D-Davenport, and Reps. Cindy Winckler and Jim Lykam, both D-Davenport, attended the meeting.
Seng said that the group homes are overseen the Iowa Department of Human Services.
“As a state, maybe we should have some more oversight on these homes,” he said.