Company informs locals of plans for house it bought
PHILO — The owners of a proposed group home for the developmentally disabled explained their plans during a special meeting this week.
Champaign-based Alan G. Ryle Cos. has purchased a home in the 900 block of South Adams Street to be used as an eight-bed group home for adults with disabilities.
Alan G. Ryle Cos. President and CEO Sherry Newton explained that the company's group homes teach residents to be able to perform basic life skills needed to live independently, like cooking a meal or balancing a checkbook. Those living in the home are required to attend some form of a day program, which in the Champaign area is done through the Developmental Services Center.
"The goal of a group home is to teach the person to be as 'normal' as possible," Newton said. "They are given the opportunity to work and earn a paycheck. You've got all levels of ability."
The Department of Human Services and the Department of Public Health regulate the group homes.
"Everything we do is scrutinized and scrutinized," Newton said. "(Employees) go through extensive background checks. Our goal is to keep people safe and happy."
Employees also undergo 40 hours of classroom training and never work alone.
The public was given the chance to ask questions.
"Why did you choose Philo?" rural resident Dirk Rice asked.
Newton said the company had looked in Tolono for a four-bedroom, one-level house with enough bathrooms but was unable to find one. Another reason Philo was chosen was that the group home's medical director, Dr. Susan Mantell, has her office there.
James Wachtel, who works directly with the disabled clients, explained that features like a commons area in the Philo house will make it ideal for a group home.
"They have the supports they need to live quietly and safely," Wachtel said. "I don't think you'll find that house on Adams will experience a big increase in traffic. Relative to other neighbors, we tend to be quieter, more polite and congenial than the family of six down the street that just doesn't care what you think. I think you will find they're good neighbors, good folks to have around."
Some attending the meeting wondered why the company would locate a group home in a town that would require bus transportation to the day program and would not be able to offer amenities like a grocery store.
Wachtel said the disadvantages to small-town living are a trade-off for the benefits.
"Some of the folks we serve are from neighboring small towns," Wachtel said. "They want the chance to be in a relatively quiet, low-speed area. Here in smaller towns, we find people are friendly, and it's frankly safer."
Eight of the 15 residents in a Tolono group home are to be moved to the Philo home.
"The federal movement is to move people into smaller homes," Newton said.
She added that larger homes have a harder time fitting in residential neighborhoods and tend to be on the outskirts of towns.
Philo resident Gary Franks questioned why the company had not sought approval from the village or informed neighbors of its plans before buying the property.
Newton asked whether Franks had to get approval from his neighbors before moving into his home.
"If we would've just quietly moved in, I don't know if anyone would have noticed any difference," Newton speculated.
The company operates 30 group homes and is developing 29 more. In addition to Tolono, its group home locations include Champaign, Arcola, Monticello and St. Joseph, and one is being developed in Urbana.