Some apprehensive Battleford residents filled normally empty seats at a town council meeting on Monday, opposing a proposed group home for youth in their neighbourhood.
Eagle’s Nest Youth Ranch has applied for 61-28th Street to become a therapeutic group home. If approved, the home would have six youth residents and two to three staff. The youth would be aged 12 to 15.
Eagle’s Nest Youth Ranch is licensed by the Ministry of Social Services. One location already exists in North Battleford.
A typical day for residents, Scott Dakiniewich of Eagle’s Nest Youth Ranch said, would involve youth going to school, while evenings would feature chores and various activities planned in advance, including sports. In the summer, staff and youth go camping.
Many youth in the program are Indigenous, Dakiniewich said, and the organization strives for culturally-appropriate programming.
The town sent letters to neighbouring property owners informing them of the proposal.
Council received six letters opposing the project, citing a variety of concerns, including the possibility of decreased property values.
Battleford Chief Administrative Officer John Enns-Wind included a statement from the Saskatchewan Professional Planning Institute in the public council package.
“There is no evidence that affordable housing, personal care homes, group homes or supportive housing has a negative effect on neighbouring residential property values.”
“If an assessor looks at a property to value it, they cannot take into consideration that there’s a group home next door,” Enns-Wind told the News-Optimist after the meeting.
According to the town’s official community plan, “supportive housing, such as care homes and day care centres will be facilitated in all areas of the Town.”
Residents were skeptical of the response regarding property values.
“You take that to the bank,” was a response from the gallery.
Some expressed concern that the proposed home would be the second of its kind in the area. A nearby home is for seniors.
Mayor Ames Leslie’s parents run the nearby home, and he excused himself from the public hearing.
Residents raised a number of other concerns, including the lack of parking space, the possibility of the youth running away, the proposed house being too small, bushes possibly being set on fire, and property crime.
Residents mentioned anecdotes of troubled and at-risk youth and the negative effects of behavioural problems to the neighbourhood.
“I’m asking council to consider this very diligently because you’re going to ruin our block,” was one comment.
A couple wrote they moved to the area because it was quiet, a good place to raise children and place where their children would know their neighbours and “neighbours would know and look out for them.”
“If this proposed addition to our neighbourhood were to proceed we would no longer feel that we were living in such a place,” according to a letter.
Eagle’s Nest Youth Ranch had to apply for a discretionary use application because they proposed housing six youth, but if they could move into a house without going before council if the organization intended four youth to move in, according to Enns-Wind.
When asked about the negative effects of having the youth in the neighbourhood, Dakiniewich said neighbouring residents have raised parking as a concern, along with pucks and balls flying over fences and youth entering yards to retrieve them without asking.
No decisions were made at the public hearing. Discussion and a decision of discretionary use applications are required to be public, according to Enns-Wind’s administrative report.
A decision is planned to take place at the June 3 town council meeting.