OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — People in one Johnson County, Kansas neighborhood are opposed to the men moving in down the street.
They’re part of a substance abuse rehab program, one that intends to use a home in Overland Park’s Shannon Valley subdivision to bring addicts back to society. Neighbors complain their presence threatens to make their streets dangerous.
“I don’t care what they say. It will hurt values,” Deb Bieker, one Shannon Valley homeowner, said on Friday.
Bieker opposes the plan, as presented by a group called Artists Helping the Homeless, which is known for using art to help recovering addicts. Bieker and her family have organized a petition drive, and gathered 150 signatures opposing using the house as a group home.
“Isn’t there enough places out there where they could have a home like this?” Bieker asked.
The City of Overland Park determined on Thursday that it cannot apply its zoning restrictions to the property, citing the Fair Housing Act. That statute, which sits under the Americans with Disabilities Act, protects people in recovery from alcoholism and addiction as being disabled.
Kar Woo, director of Artists Helping the Homeless, said the house being used has been owned by his family for four decades. Woo said the eight make addicts living in the home for as much as nine months at a time are referred by mental health professionals in Johnson County.
“The challenge is here. We just have to learn to see it in a different perspective and work toward how to solve the problem as a community,” Woo told FOX4.
Shannon Valley residents are governed by a homeowners association. Libby Hayes, Shannon Valley’s HOA president, said federal laws, as well as rulings by city leaders supersede the HOA’s covenant with its residents.
“Disabled individuals, such as these young men, have the right to live in the same type of neighborhood as everyone else,” Hayes said. “I think Shannon Valley can contribute to that.”
Woo pointed to 14 similar facilities in Overland Park where people are in recovery, and, according to Woo, there have been no adverse affects on their neighborhoods. He said police and city leaders have been carefully consulted in making these decisions. As for the house in question, Woo said he plans to see new residents here soon, but he’s uncertain as to when new faces will move in.