Peoria is now adding its name to the Illinois Hall of Shame!
This is a violation of the individuals civil rights and if Bethesda is confronted, they should file
a lawsuit and seek damages!
Advocates in Peoria, take note!
Story from the Peoria Journal Star.
Peoria City Council to review neighborhood group homes
By Nick Vlahos of the Journal Star
October 27. 2014 8:29PM
PEORIA — Francis Hill, who has a learning disability, uses one word to summarize her
experience residing in a group home Bethesda Lutheran Communities oversees: “Happy.”
Don Wort uses a few more words to summarize his experience residing next door to one
of Bethesda’s six Peoria homes.
“I don’t really have any problems with the people that are in that house,” Wort said. “I just
don’t think it’s got a place in our neighborhood.”
During its meeting Tuesday night at Charles Lindbergh Middle School, 6327 N. Sheridan
Road, the Peoria City Council is to determine if some of Bethesda’s homes will have
proper parking places.
The houses at 6225 N. Hamilton Road, 1910 W. Newman Parkway, 2912 W. Parkridge
Drive and 6502 N. Robinwood Drive require land-use waivers to allow for employee
parking in driveways. Waivers are necessary because handicap-access ramps
constructed inside residence garages eliminated some spaces.
Bethesda-affiliated officials acknowledged mistakes in not securing proper municipal
clearance to construct the ramps. During a meeting earlier this month, the Peoria Planning
and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the four sites.
The packed-house meeting included complaints about parking, traffic and other activity
in and around the houses. Each plays host to four residents who have cerebral palsy,
autism or other disabilities.
“That was brutal,” Lisa Potter, Peoria-area director for Wisconsin-based Bethesda, said
about the Planning and Zoning meeting.
“There are some people that are not going to change their minds or are not open to the
concept of supporting people with disabilities in their community,” Potter said. “I find that
unfortunate. But I will do what I can to give them the information they need and open our
Behind the doors on Parkridge Drive in Central Peoria live Hill, 25, and three others, ages
18 to 38. The ranch-style house opened in May for Bethesda-supervised occupancy.
Bethesda entered the Peoria market about a year ago. Their houses are staffed 24
hours a day, sometimes with two people. Bethesda wants to open four more homes over
the next year, according to Potter.
Sally Jo Winek, a Peoria child neurologist, would welcome that. Her daughter Gretel, 21,
has cerebral palsy and is in line to move into a new Bethesda home.
“Her three siblings all have gone off to college, so we told her, ‘This is her dorm,’” the
elder Winek said recently as she stood in the Parkridge Drive residence. “She just lights
up like a Christmas tree.
“This is her peer group. Who doesn’t want to be with their peers?”
Bethesda tries to match age groups and interests, Potter said. No current or former
criminals are allowed. State and/or private money funds the residents, whose names
are on the houses’ leases.
“It’s theirs,” Winek said. “I think it’s just human, built into everybody, that they want to
move on and have something to call their home.”
Those who live in the Parkridge Drive home are good neighbors, according to Joe
LaHood, who resides next door.
“They’re the sweetest people you could ever meet in your life,” he said.
As many as 15 or 20 vehicles were parking along Parkridge Drive each day after the
house first opened, LaHood said. Staff training was taking place there, Potter said.
Space elsewhere is being secured for training, and traffic appears to have abated.
“Having talked to them several times, they never realized what impact it would have
on the neighborhood,” LaHood said about Bethesda representatives.
Things are not quite as sanguine at another Bethesda house, at 722 W. North Lane.
Wort and other neighbors at that North Peoria location aren’t pleased about the
number of vehicles parked routinely in front of the residence. Sometimes they have
been parked on adjacent properties.
According to Wort, mini-buses that transport Bethesda residents also have caused
clutter along his street, which is narrower than the typical Peoria residential
“I don’t think there is a good solution for our street,” Wort said. “Basically, it’s a
business, and I didn’t think you could put a business in the middle of a residential
Police were called to the North Lane residence three times over a two-day span in
early September, according to a city response to an Illinois Freedom of Information
Act request. The incidents generated no police reports. Dispatch reports stated a
resident was throwing things at staff and trying to cut herself with broken glass.
“None of us are against the mentally handicapped or the physically handicapped,”
said one neighbor, who spoke under condition of anonymity. “We’re worried about
safety and about our property values going down.”
According to Potter, an emergency call for medical assistance came from the North
Lane site in late August or early September. She also stated the residents don’t
pose a threat to the neighborhood. Bethesda is attempting to mitigate traffic there.
The North Lane location was among those on the Planning and Zoning Commission
agenda, but it was removed because the parking waiver no longer was needed.
According to Potter, a handicap-access ramp built inside the garage was removed
because all the residents were ambulatory.
Potter acknowledged some neighbors take a not-in-my-backyard approach to
Bethesda homes. Most neighbors have been more along the lines of LaHood.
“(Our residents) would really like to be a part of the neighborhood, as opposed to
worrying about safety or just having a fear of who’s living in their home,” Potter said.
Residents such as Hill and others have more pressing concerns, anyway,
according to Winek.
“I deal with families with kids with multiple handicaps and disabilities,” she said. “I
deal with families where I talk about end-of-life decisions for children. And these
people are worried about who’s parking on their street? It’s like, ‘Get a life.’
“I’m worried about my families dealing with a kid who’s going to croak in a week. I
just don’t get it.”
Nick Vlahos can be reached at 686-3285 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on
Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423