Having a Level 2 sex offender move next door into a People Inc. group home is personal for Joe Dugan and his family in Newstead. “My wife was sexually assaulted as a young girl,” he told more than 75 people at a special Newstead Town Board meeting Wednesday night.
Still, Dugan joined six other community members on a committee looking at the group home on Rapids Road and another on Buckwheat Road that People Inc. opened recently, each for six developmentally disabled adults.
He also called Rhonda Frederick, the chief executive officer of People Inc., and set up a meeting Wednesday with residents at the Rapids home. Some didn’t want to meet with him, but two did, with the home manager and another staffer.
“I was very impressed with the two gentlemen I talked with,” Dugan said.
One just got a job at Walmart, and the other wants to find work, he said. Dugan said he has no problems with five of the residents of the home. But the sixth was convicted of first-degree sexual abuse of a 4-year-old girl in May 1993. He spent 2½ years at Wende Correctional Facility before being paroled in 1996, and is registered as a Level 2 offender – which the state defines as posing a “moderate” risk .
Elisa Dugan said she moved to New York to get away from her abuser, and now feels like a 4- or 5-year old girl again. “I go to bed and he’s right there,” she said. “You are victimizing me, and I have no rights.”
Kirk Maurer, regional director of the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, said he was sorry for her situation.
He said all the residents of the group homes have been thoroughly vetted by the state and People Inc., and that the homes are staffed 24-hours a day. Only those “deemed appropriate” for community living are put into group homes, he said. But specific information about the residents or their conditions is not available, he said.
While emotions were high at the meeting, there were no raised voices.
Frederick said a combination on a keypad is necessary to enter and leave each group home. While the residents may have come from the Monroe Developmental Center, most have ties to Western New York, she said.
She apologized for parking problems at the two homes, and said People Inc. does not provide enough on-site parking but plans to remedy that in the spring. She said staff meetings are being conducted off-site, and shifts have been staggered so workers are not coming and going at the same time.
The two homes are staffed by a master’s level clinician, have a psychologist and nurse visiting about eight hours a week, and have trained support staff, she said. Smoking is not allowed in the homes, and residents who smoke are accompanied outside by a staffer, she said. People Inc. has operated another group home in the town since 1980, she said.
But Michael Adymy, who also lives next to the Rapids Road home, said residents remain concerned. “We’re worried about the sex offender residing in that home,” he said. “We’re worried about the unknown.”
Frederick said this is the first time People Inc. has housed a convicted sex offender in one of its 108 group homes.
Town Board members distributed names and addresses of state and federal elected officials for residents to contact to ask for a change in the law. Councilwoman Marybeth Whiting also said the community committee will continue meeting.