By Peter H. Milliken
The embattled and financially troubled House of Hope group home for mentally disabled adults has closed and is giving up its Ohio Department of Health group-home license.
Charlene Crissman, administrator of the group home at 115 Illinois Ave., said the home is relinquishing its license and will not reopen under the current management.
“We don’t have the financial means” to reopen, Crissman said, adding that 17 employees, including herself, have been laid off because of Thursday’s closing, which follows this week’s relocation of all 42 residents.
The home has been embroiled in recent months in a court battle as the state asked Magistrate Daniel Dascenzo to close it after the homicide of a resident by strangulation last Nov. 11.
The Mahoning County Common Pleas Court magistrate declined to close it, but imposed strict conditions on its operation, including fire safety rules on smoking.
Mental-health board officials from Mahoning, Trumbull, Geauga, Lake, Stark, Cuyahoga and Summit counties removed their clients from the group home, which was one of the largest in the Mahoning Valley.
On Wednesday, 11 residents were relocated to the crisis unit at the Turning Point Counseling Center, from which several may be relocated to the Burdman Group home, said Ron Marian, executive director of the Mahoning County Mental Health Board.
Most HOH residents went to other Youngstown-area group homes, Marian said.
Crissman said she knew the whereabouts of only a few of the home’s former residents; and that a Turning Point case manager told her Friday that the counseling center was still trying to compile a complete list of names and new locations.
Family members of former HOH residents have been calling Crissman inquiring about the whereabouts of the former residents, Crissman said.
Of the 42 HOH residents, 26 are clients of the Mahoning County Mental Health Board; six are clients of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board; and the remaining 10 are clients of the other Northeast Ohio county mental health boards.
Mental health officials removed the group home’s residents “for their own protection and their safety,” and none of HOH’s former residents are now homeless, Marian said.
“We did not shut the place down. We took our clients out. I have no authority to close them,” Marian said.
April Caraway, Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board executive director, said all six of her clients were relocated Thursday to other Mahoning Valley locations.
“Housing for our severely and persistently mentally ill clients is pretty scarce, and we’re always looking for people who have the heart to work with our clients,” Caraway said. “We have a lot of homeless problems throughout our system,” she added.
The emergency relocation of HOH residents was triggered by a call from an HOH official to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, in which the group home official said the home owed $5,200 on its natural-gas bill and was facing a gas shutoff and could not afford to feed its residents and meet its payroll, Marian said.
NAMI is a support and advocacy group for people with mental illness and their families.
HOH cooked with natural gas and used that fuel for heating, Marian said, adding that the home owed about $20,000 in back real- estate taxes.
Marian said there were about 25 group homes in Mahoning County 30 years ago, and now there are about a dozen because the business is not highly profitable.
The homes receive only about $880 per client per month in Medicaid or state mental health department funds, with which they must provide room, board and round-the clock supervision for clients, Marian explained.
Crissman urged family members making inquiries or seeking to retrieve former residents’ belongings to call her at 330-746-5493, and leave a message, if necessary.
By calling that number, they can make an appointment with her within the next week to retrieve possessions of former residents, many of whom left only with some clothing in plastic bags, she said.