Ypsilanti Township halfway home with troubled history will relocate
On Jan. 7, 2011, Al Stevens was recovering at his McKinley Avenue home in Ypsilanti Township after a hospital stay for work on his pacemaker. Early that evening there was knock on the door.
Stevens, 84, answered and saw a man he estimated to be 35 years old standing on his porch without any shoes.
Stevens, who uses hearing aids, opened his storm door to hear what the man was saying. He said he immediately realized he made a mistake.
The man got a “deranged look” on his face, told Stevens he "knew the house" and tried to force his way in.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Despite his condition, Stevens was able to shove the man back and close and lock his doors. The man pounded on the storm door, and Stevens called the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department.
“I’m an old man and I’m not really up to fighting 30 to 40 year old fellas,” Stevens said while recounting the incident to the Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees during a meeting on March 12. “I’ll never forget the deranged look in that man’s face when he grabbed my storm door.”
Deputies found the man, who lived at a halfway house at 2063 McKinley on the same block as Stevens, and told Stevens they didn’t believe the man was dangerous, though he was mentally ill.
The incident is one of many problems reported to police involving clients at a halfway home for mentally ill residents at the address.
Stevens and Hal Wolfe, who also lives on McKinley, spoke to the township board about the issues they say they and their neighbors have endured. Wolfe contends that the house is under-supervised, clients are prone to violent outbursts and clients have often roamed through the neighborhood without supervision.
He also said the home isn’t registered with any state agency, and has flown under the radar because of that.
Incidents reported to the Sheriff’s Department include noise complaints, complaints about the number of cars parked along the street and in the yard, clients trying to break into neighboring homes and a report that a 10-year-old girl spotted one of the men masturbating in the window.
“The issues range from irritating to outlandish to dangerous,” Wolfe said, adding that neighbors have run out of patience.
Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department Lt. Jim Anuszkiewicz said no charges stemming from incidents at the address were forwarded to the prosecutor and in most cases the department is only trying to assist a caregiver in controlling the situation.
There are questions of intent when police look at issues involving mentally ill residents, Anuszkiewicz said, and the department works with Washtenaw County Community Support and Treatment Services officials when more serious problems arise.
Mike Radzik, director of the township's Office of Community Standards, confirmed the issues at the home on McKinley and said the agency renting the home isn’t registered with the state. But the area also isn't zoned for a halfway house, and the residents will be out of the home by May 1, Radzik said.
Ypsilanti Township officials said the home is rented by Joak Homes, an Ann Arbor-based assisted living company. The area is zoned R-5, which allows for single-family homes. Since the home is rented to a non-profit corporation that sublets rooms to clients, it is essentially a boarding house, which isn’t allowed, Radzik said.
A notice of violation was served to the landlord for the property, who said he was unaware of the zoning issues on Feb. 17. The landlord assured officials that Joak's lease expires at the end of April and the lease will not be renewed, Radzik said.
Atama Toure, a program manager at Joak, said his company doesn’t rent the property from the landlord, who also owns the nearby Target Party Store. He said one of the clients rents the property and Joak only supervises the clients and takes them on outings.
Clients are referred to the company through County Community Support, Toure said, and added that the clients are “like residents who can live anywhere.”
County Community Support officials did not return calls from AnnArbor.com.
Toure said there have been fewer complaints in recent months, and the resident who was spotted masturbating in a window no longer lives in the house.
Toure said he didn’t know if Joak was accredited or licensed with the state, and said he wasn’t sure what the company would do if the lease wasn’t renewed.
Stevens said he doesn’t understand why the man picked his home, but he and neighbors are hopeful that May 1 will mark the end of the neighborhood’s issues.
“It seems like it might be getting a fair amount of review (from the township) and hopefully we’ll be taken care of,” he said. "I like my neighbors. I want to get along with my neighbors."