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July 26, 2014
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Grass Valley neighbors organize to block housing for mentally ill

Grass Valley residents have filed a petition with the city, opposing plans to put a home for adults with mental illnesses in a single-family residence on the 600 block of Pelton Way.

As of Wednesday afternoon, that petition had garnered 46 signatures.

The petition reads: “We, the homeowners and residents of Pelton Way and surrounding community, through this petition, adamantly oppose the proposed creation and operation of any transitional, assisted living, drug or alcohol rehabilitation, mental health treatment, or any other type of facility as defined in California Health and Human Services Title 22, or any facility requiring certification through the California Community Care Licensing …”

Michael Heggarty, Behavioral Health Director for the Nevada County Health and Human Services Agency, says licensing won’t be necessary for this residence.

“We’re proposing for four individuals to be living in the house under a rental agreement between individuals and the Nevada County Housing Development Corporation,” Heggarty said. “We’re not required to have a license or certification, just as if you own a house and you want to rent out rooms.”

That was a point of concern at Tuesday night’s city council meeting, when residents of the neighborhood around Pelton Way spoke out during public comment. Other concerns were voiced about public safety for neighboring residences and adverse impacts on real estate values.

“There’s lots of children around, and I just don’t feel comfortable having mental health issues in our area,” said neighbor Trishele Swasey. “And also the property value will go down.”

It is not clear at this time precisely what kind of mental health issues will be in play at this residence, but there are a number of qualifications each applicant would have to meet.

To be eligible, candidates will have to be adults older than 18 with a serious mental illness, and they have to be in one of the Behavior Health department’s intensive treatment programs.

They will also have to be either homeless, or at risk of homelessness.

Joyce Peterman, executive director for the Nevada County Housing Development Corporation, has said that the future residents of this home will be disabled individuals who can’t afford to rent their own homes.

“We provide an independent shared living house for them,” Peterman said.

“The idea behind it is that they learn some living skills and get to save some money while they have supportive services if they need them,” she said. “They’re also learning to live independently.”

Heggarty said his organization will have a role in selecting the residents — and they won’t approve individuals with histories of violence or drug use.

“We very much want the program to succeed and we’re going to be placing people there with a high chance of success,” he said.

Officials with Nevada County Housing Development Corporation said that anyone with domestic violence or drug-related convictions will be heavily scrutinized.

Sex offenders have been ruled out due to the location, as well as funding constraints.

The city government has little, if any, influence over how this situation develops — but the neighbors said they knew that already when they presented their petition to the city council.

They’ve also asked the city to put this issue on the agenda so it can be discussed in greater detail at a future city council meeting.

“We’re looking for public support at this point because it could happen in any neighborhood,” said Monica L’Etoile, another resident of the surrounding neighborhood. “I’ll take it to the county, we’ll take it to the state, we’ll take it to an attorney.”

To contact Staff Writer Dave Brooksher, send emails to dbrooksher@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

“There’s lots of children around, and I just don’t feel comfortable having mental health issues in our area. And also the property value will go down.”
Trishele Swasey


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The Union Updated Jul 26, 2014 01:01AM Published Jul 29, 2014 02:35PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.