Report: Worcester neighborhood likes “group homes”

posted by Mike on October 2nd, 2006

Professor Corey Dolgon and some of his Worcester State College students have studied a Worcester neighborhood that’s home to several social service programs, and found that the people there are supportive of these facilities.

(Read the “Mending Fences” report.)

They looked at a triangular neighborhood south of Clark University, bounded by Main, Cambridge, and Crystal. (They refer to this neighborhood as “area #1.” I hope the name sticks.)

Property values: Between 2000 and 2006, the average property values in the neighborhood rose 58% to 70%. Property values in Worcester overall rose 60% to 80%. The report authors do not think this difference is significant. (The specific data is not part of the on-line version.)

Crime: The researchers looked at crime data for the past year, and found:

In looking at actual arrest numbers and addresses . . . students found that under 3% (237) of total arrests (7,835) could be traced back to the addresses of group homes in all three of the original areas under investigation. In the particular neighborhood of area #1, only 15 arrests, or less than ¼ of 1%, could be attributed to residents of supportive housing. Given that these neighborhoods have some of the highest arrest rates in Worcester, these statistics seem to show that there is little negative impact from group homes in regards to crimes committed by residents.

Neighborhood attitudes: They surveyed the neighborhood and found that 78% of the people in the neighborhood “support” or “strongly support” “any type of group home in my neighborhood.” A hard-core 16% “would rather see a house in the neighborhood vacant and abandoned than a group home put there.”

According to the survey handed out to neighbors:

A group home is a home funded by federal, state or local government that helps less fortunate people and provides them a place to live. There are many different types of group homes, for many different types of homeless people. These groups include runaways, people with substance abuse problems, parolees, pregnant single teens, etc . . . .

The report also finds that only 28% of neighbors think these homes increase crime, 26% think they increase violence, and 34% think they decrease property values.

Despite these low numbers, a whopping 66% think that “A group home in the neighborhood would have a negative effect.”

So there’s the contradiction: most people like group homes, and most don’t think they cause any specific problems, yet they think they are a general problem. Why?

The report authors speculate:

Despite the overwhelming majority of studies that demonstrate group homes have no negative impact on the neighborhoods they are located in, the oppositional voices continue to claim otherwise. While the falsity of these claims has been well documented, it has been pretty well accepted that movements were somewhat representative of neighbors’ feelings, regardless of how poorly informed they may have been. We think these surveys show that such scenarios are not necessarily true.

But that doesn’t mean that oppositional groups don’t have an impact on the general consciousness of the community. If a small, militant group continue to make claims, and the press reports them without adequate balance, and local legislators act upon because they have more political or social or economic power, then the claims gain a certain legitimacy or “common sense” regardless of how false they are. We believe this dynamic helps explain why people responded that groups homes would have a negative impact on the neighborhood despite the fact that they responded overwhelmingly that they haven’t so far.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a comment