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Westchester Square meeting addresses social service agencies

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As problems continue to be apparent in the Westchester Square-Zerega area, community members and elected officials are taking steps towards instituting better communication to resolve these issues.

Senator Jeff Klein hosted a meeting in his office on Thursday, September 25, with representatives from agencies, government officials, and community leaders throughout the Westchester Square-Zerega area.

This meeting was held in response to growing concerns and problems related to the social service agencies in the area, including group homes, and drug and alcohol treatment programs.

“This is something we began to put together a couple of months ago to address the problems the Westchester Square-Zerega community was having with an over saturation of social service agencies,” said Klein. “One of the problems was we were getting secondhand information on the issues and we felt it was important to have something in place to effectively monitor the situation.”

Prior to the meeting, an advisory board was formed, Inc./Merchants and Professionals of Westchester Square Committee for Community Growth and Development.

“For years we have been trying to get through to directors to find out how they affect the residents. About a year ago Senator Klein came up with the idea of forming a Committee for Community Growth and Development,” said Sandi Lusk, of the Westchester Square Improvement Organization. “He asked if I would help organize and create it, it is designed to be a coalition of community groups.”

Providers, such as DAYTOP and Sound View Throggs Neck Community Mental Health Center, addressed the concerns of community members including capacity and services they provide, issues of loitering and drug use within the area, and their involvement with the community.

“There was a lot of information exchanged,” said Lusk. “We got to learn more about the programs and explain some of the difficulties we have had in the past.”

DAYTOP discussed a new rule they hoped to institute, prohibiting smoking in, around, or on the block of the facility to prevent littering and loitering on the premises.

The Sound View Throggs Neck Community Mental Health Center plans to maintain their property with regular clean-ups, should the property be defaced, as to not be an eye sore for the community.

According to Klein, a major advantage to instituting these lines of communication is to keep informed of proposals for agencies wishing to change or enter the area, allowing the community a chance to respond to these new proposed facilities.

“This is only the beginning, this will lead to ongoing dialogue,” stated Lusk. “We will be holding a public meeting on November 15, and we will invite all parties involved, to hear the peoples concerns and let people ask questions. The whole point is to eliminate the mystery and fear surrounding these programs so in the long run this can be a very positive thing.”

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