Group home for women with developmental disabilities planned for Van Nest

Group home for women with developmental disabilities planned for Van Nest
620 Baker St. in Van Nest, where Unique People Services would like to create a group home for four young women with developmental disabilities.
Photo by Edwin Soto

A service group has set its sights on a Van Nest house as the new home of women with developmental disabilities, but first it must face a resistant community board.

Unique People Services, which provides housing and support for individuals living with AIDS, mental illness, or developmental disabilities, would like to turn a two-family house at 620 Baker Avenue into a group home for four young women in their 20s who have aged out of their residential programs.

The organization will present the idea to Community Board 11 at a public hearing on July 24. The plan was initially introduced to the board at the June meeting by Sonji Phillips, director of developmental disability services.

The group home would be an Individual Residential Alternative for the four women, who all have mild-to-moderate developmental disabilities, Phillips said. It would be staffed around the clock, and the women, who either work or attend day habilitation centers, have no history of dangerous behavior, she said, adding the home would be well cared for and the women will receive lots of services, Phillips said she sees no negative impact on the neighborhood.

“They’ll be receiving all the support the need to participate in the community,” she said.

The organization is still entertaining other housing options for the women, but Phillips said the Van Nest house is the top choice because it has a great layout and meets state requirements.

Phillips said she received a negative response when she first presented the plan to the community board. Board member Al D’Angelo supported group homes for people already living in the community board region, but he opposed Unique’s proposal because the women were not from the Van Nest or Morris Park areas.

Organizations look to put services for people from outside the community into the neighborhood, D’Angelo said, and it’s the community board’s responsibility to protect and serve the existing residents.

“I don’t want our community to be a dumping ground because it’s a safe community for anyone who wants to put a group home here,” said D’Angelo. “Put the group home where the children are coming from.”

Near the end of the meeting a board member made a motion to oppose the group home, which the majority of the board supported. But after the meeting, it was brought to the attention of the board’s chair, Tony Vitaliano, that there should have been a public hearing on the issue before any vote.

It’s important to allow community members a chance to give their input, said Vitaliano, although he said he expects the community board to vote the same way next time.

“You’ve got to have a public hearing and invite people from the neighborhood,” he said.

The public hearing will take place at on Thurs. July 24 at 7 pm, at Lubin Hall, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1200 Van Nest Avenue. Members of the public will be able to speak at the hearing for up to three minutes if they sign up before it starts.

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at (718) 742–3383. E-mail her at

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