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Edmonton won’t change group home rules

EDMONTON – Residents still won’t be notified when a group home is proposed for their neighbourhood, city council’s executive committee ruled Tuesday.

Councillors rejected a proposed change to a zoning bylaw that would alter the way group homes are approved.

Speakers voiced concerns that the changes would spark more appeals to the subdivision appeal board, result in fewer group homes and unfairly expose group home residents.

“If people have a problem with their neighbours, we call the city and we have that conversation,” said Leah, who has two children living in group homes. “I have issues with my neighbours, but that doesn’t give me the right to know if they wear glasses, if their hair is brown, or if they identify themselves with a disability.”

“If we change that language and we said ‘African Americans, aboriginals, LGBTQ,’ if we started identifying people by labels and titles, we would not be having this conversation.

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“Why is it OK for our daughters who live with a disability to be identified in community?”

Group-home oversight made headlines in September after a 17-year-old was charged with murder and questions were raised about how her group home was being managed.

READ MORE: Questions raised over Edmonton group home after youth charged with murder 

But, after hearing from a number of speakers, Mayor Don Iveson said the committee was convinced:

“To add any additional barriers that might create additional stigma or complexity in creating or maintaining those units, beyond the reasonable rules that we have, I think is not in the public interest,” he said.

Leif Gregerson, who has bipolar disorder, said living in a group home transformed his life.

“It was important for me to be here today because not a lot of people who are in the group home system can really have a voice.”

In some communities, concerns remain about how group homes are operated and who oversees them. That, Iveson said, is in the province’s hands.

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“The question is: are the supports that are there in this kind of housing sufficient to protect the people who use the housing as well as neighbours? Those are issues best left to the province.”

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