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Questions raised over Edmonton group home after youth charged with murder

WATCH ABOVE: A 17-year-old resident of a group home on Alberta Avenue has been charged with second-degree murder. That has sparked a call from the community for change. Lisa Wolansky reports.

EDMONTON — Comments made by a long-time member of the Edmonton Police Service are drawing attention to a local group home for high-risk youth.

“This 17-year-old, I have to say, was living in a group home only blocks away from the homicide scene and basically running wild out of that group home,” said EPS Staff Sgt. Bill Clark on Saturday.

The 17-year-old girl was charged with second-degree murder, possession of a weapon and robbery in the death of a 32-year-old man earlier this week. She cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Shawn Richard was found lying in the middle of 95 Street between 117 and 118 avenues at around 3:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 31. He died of a stab wound to the chest.

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Clark said the 17-year-old girl is “very well known” to police. He said the group home had a curfew in place, but it doesn’t appear the curfew was in effect.

“They were basically out all night and then they would sign in and sleep all day long. I’m not sure why we would have a group home system that operates in that fashion, but obviously those type of things were a factor in contributing to this incident.”

READ MORE: Youth charged with second-degree murder after man found dead on central Edmonton street 

Cris Basualdo, the development director of the Alberta Avenue community, said neighbours have been voicing similar concerns regarding lack of supervision for some time.

“The teenagers coming out at night-time, coming out of windows, etcetera. I’ve heard about people smoking drugs in the backyard, about noise, and just generally bad behaviour around that group home.”

She said residents are very concerned and held a meeting with the agencies involved. She said representatives from E4C – which operates the group home – and a police officer from the NET Team were present. However, Basualdo said the problems persisted.

“We know that the kids are outside at all hours,” she said.

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“It’s like any problem house in our neighbourhood. The only difference here is it’s being run by social agencies and government funded, which makes it more concerning.”

Basualdo said the apparent lack of supervision is just one issue at play; location is another.

“A house like this should actually be in a place – not only adequately supervised – but in a place that’s maybe healthier, where people who are street kids are not going to encounter drugs, are not going to encounter prostitution and all the things associated with that.

“I love my neighbourhood… but we still have problems with prostitution and drugs. That combination has been a really bad combination for the neighbourhood and I think also for the kids who are housed there. It’s not healthy for them either.”

When area resident Cora Shaw moved in nearly 10 years ago, she didn’t even realize there was a group home next door.

“But in the last couple of years when it changed … to the people who are running it now, it’s been nuts. We’ve had kids climbing out of the windows, we’ve had drugs happening.”

“If they’re dealing with other issues like drug addiction and whatnot, I hate to say it, but this really isn’t a great place to have kids with addictions. You have 118 Avenue where drugs are still available. We’ve done a lot of work in this area, a lot! But if you keep bringing in people or having issues, we’re not going to be able to clean up the area. It’s one big struggle after another.”

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Edmonton’s mayor said he appreciates hearing the perspective of the homicide detective.

“I think it’s very important for us to pay close attention to what they’re seeing on the ground,” said Don Iveson.

“This is, I think, chronic lack of attention from the province to vulnerable Albertans, and particularly people with serious mental health issues, that they have absolutely not dealt with historically.

“I will be looking for this government to step up on this file and soon because it’s starting to affect safety and quality of life in our city and that’s what we’re hearing from our police and from neighbours.”

Iveson said the city will continue to work with the province on whether rule changes are needed at either the municipal or provincial level.

“Every few years we look at the rules around group homes. Our tools are a bit limited because we sort of approve where they go, but how they operate is in the hands of the province. We have tightened up rules in the last few years in order to deal with overconcentration.”

Alberta’s minister of human services was not available for an interview on Monday. However, in a statement, Irfan Sabir said:

“We are concerned to hear about the issues identified by a member of the Edmonton Police and we will be contacting the EPS to obtain more details.‎ We will take any steps necessary to ensure this facility, which supports youth coming from backgrounds of significant trauma, exposure to family violence, neglect, and abuse, meets its responsibilities. The safety of the general public is everyone’s concern.”

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E4C is a local not-for-profit group, contracted by Alberta Human Services.  Global News reached out to E4C for comment, but did not receive a response.

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