By Alex Davidson
A group home serving mentally retarded adolescents is scheduled to open in Ozone Park by the end of the year, replacing a juvenile corrections facility that has occupied the two-story building for the last three years, the chairman of Community Board 9 said.
Paul Sapienza said the home at 102-02 97th Ave. will house seven moderately to severely retarded young men between the ages of 15 and 20. The facility is authorized by the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities and will be operated by St. Christopher Ottilie, a non-profit religious organization.
“They are the best neighbors you'll ever have,” said Sapienza, who lives near another similar group home in Richmond Hill. “Everybody should have such good neighbors.”
Members of CB 9 approved the group home recommendation at their regular meeting April 8.
Lisa Gomes, community associate for the board, said the house will be monitored by house parents, who will be responsible for the seven residents. She said the site will offer the young men meals, medical services, emotional support and the option to participate in social, leisure and recreational activities.
Gomes also said the residents will go to school Monday through Friday and, most importantly, the house parents will try to integrate them into the community.
“We have had very good experiences with people who run these homes,” said Gomes, who added that there are several similar facilities inside the borders of CB 9. “This is now the norm for these types of situations.”
Deborah Sturm Rausch, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, said her agency will certify the facility once it is in operation. She said that a need for the facility has already been documented, however, which is why her office proposed the housing project.
Sapienza said the group home will also encourage the seven residents to develop independent lifestyles, with the aim of making them able to live on their own and integrate fully into local communities. He said there will be an attendant on duty 24 hours a day to make sure the residents and house are secure.
Community Board 9 covers the neighborhoods of Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Kew Gardens.
Gomes said the facility is replacing a state Department of Juvenile Justice home that also housed adolescents and was open for three years. She said housing mentally retarded and handicapped people in communities such as Richmond Hill and Ozone Park rather than in large, institutional-type settings has been a trend for the past 10 years.
Sapienza said he was happy to have the homes popping up in his community.
“What they're coming to is a smaller, home-like environment,” Sapienza said. “The hope is that at least some of them have the potential to develop beyond this stage.”
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.