The Refuge

Residents, who live near a drug treatment and sober living home in Bear want answers on how the facility was approved for their neighborhood.

The Refuge, a sober living home with 20 beds, has been open since February, but since the weather has gotten nicer, some of the patients have been walking in the neighborhood, which has caught the attention of neighbors.

The public asked their elected representatives--state Sen. Nicole Poore, state Rep. Valerie Longhurst, and County Councilman Bill Bell--how The Refuge was approved without their knowledge, and none could provide an answer.

Sharon Scarmozzi lives near the facility, and she said she was lied to when she asked about what was going there.

"Not one person told me that was going to be a drug rehab," said Scarmozzi. "I was told everything from a conference center, to offices, to a school."

Others also complained that they were not told this facility was coming into their neighborhood. Many said they support this type of rehab facility, but they didn't want it in their neighborhood. Some residents expressed concern that property values would drop because of the facility's presence in the neighborhood.

But most complaints centered on communication--or lack thereof--about the facility.

Many people also are concerned about safety, as prisoners in the work release stage of their sentence from the Plummer Center get dropped off at the facility.

Others expressed concerns regarding security levels at the facility.  Some residents said they were worried others--knowing that the facility has some drugs--will make it a target for break-ins.

With patients walking in the neighborhood, many also said they fear for their personal safety at their home. Among them is Victoria Mills, who said she was harassed by some from the Refuge.

"They didn't come up the driveway, they're screaming down at me to get me to come talk to them," said Mills.

She added she plans to install cameras on her property for security.

Michelle McIver, Executive Director of Aquila, which runs The Refuge, made a couple of promises to the neighbors after hearing their complaints.

"I'm going to do everything possible to make sure that their neighborhood is safe, and the first thing I'm going to do is eliminate walking traffic in the community. Second of all, I will start the process to look to have overnight security on the premises," said McIver.

Senator Poore believes the residents have valid concerns. Poore, Longhurst and Bell will again have a town-hall-style meeting sometime next month in Delaware City, most likely at the fire hall. Bell said top representatives from the New Castle County Land Use Department will be there to answer questions from the public about the process of acquiring property in the county.