ESTABLISHING AND MAINTAINING POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS IN THE COMMUNITY
A GUIDE FOR FACILITY PROVIDERS
What makes a good neighbor? From our own experiences in our own homes, we all have a pretty clear idea of neighborliness. Good neighbors are people we can trust to keep an eye on the house when we're away, people we can rely on to give us a hand if we need a little extra help, people we can depend on to help keep the street looking good by keeping their lawns mowed, their yards neat, and houses painted. Good neighbors watch out for their own children, and for ours, to make sure they are playing safely and staying out of trouble. Good neighbors are the folks that we're glad bought the house next door and that we miss when they move away.
When a facility moves into a residential community, you become the new neighbor on the block and the neighborhood's expectations about you are the same as they would be about any new neighbor. Because there have been instances where group homes have not made good neighbors, community residents are often suspicious or hostile when they learn that a group home has opened, or is about to open, in their neighborhood.
BEFORE YOU MOVE IN
Even before you begin caring for residents at a new location, there is work to do to reassure your new neighbors. The old maxim "you never get a second chance to make a good first impression " applies here. Do your homework so that you can anticipate and prevent problems wherever possible. Consider developing a neighbor introduction and prepare written materials about your program that can be shared with neighbors; be clear, factual and straightforward. Be sure to include complaint procedures that they can refer to in the future.
Maintenance is the essence of “good neighborliness.” Ill will often develops in neighborhoods because property is not kept up. The appearance of the property is often considered a direct reflection of every other aspect of your program. Good maintenance of the house may also act to reassure neighbors that your program and the residents cared for are equally well cared-for, supervised and under control.
Each home should be physically maintained in a manner, which does credit to the neighborhood. The objective should be to have the best looking place in the neighborhood. Possibly conduct monthly inspections of the facility and recognize or reward the staff of the home that is most presentable and attractive. Adhere to community standards for landscaping, painting and decor.
The conduct of the residents served in your home will be expected to meet high standards. Residents need to be supervised when outside. Redirect residents toward more appropriate behaviors when in the public view. Intervene as needed for inappropriate behaviors. Residents need to be dressed appropriately when outside (even on weekends). Don't allow residents to play radios loud in the yard and keep the volume of stereos and television at a level that does not disturb the neighbors. Residents and staff should not cut corners and walk on other people's lawn or walk in the middle of the street. Residents privacy must be maintained from the neighbors. Curtains and blinds are to be drawn during dressing and personal care. Make it a practice for residents and staff to wave and say hi to neighbors.
Simply put, your staff have to do their jobs if your care home is going to fit into the neighborhood. Your staff are an extension of yourself and, of course, of your program. Neighbors or responding agencies cannot be expected to see any difference between you and your staff. Consider some of the following rules for staff conduct: With people coming in and out of the facility at all hours of the day or evening (depending on shift changes outings etc...) neighbors may become concerned for their and the residents safety. Never allow staff to smoke or gather in front of the facility. This brings up questions like who is watching the residents. Staff may smoke in the designated smoking area in the backyard. Show respect for the neighbors. Don't allow staff to or their friends (picking up or dropping them off) to play their car radios loud, honk their horns, drive fast, or hang out for long periods of time out on the street. Be aware of parking around the facility and never block neighbors driveways.
Take all complaints seriously and make it a priority to respond to complainants as soon as possible. Failure to be responsive to complaints usually will result in the need to find a listener somewhere. If it's not you, it will be local government, local media or the local licensing office. The involvement of any of these entities can start a series of processes over which you have little direct control. Make sure the neighbors know who to contact in the facility if they have a complaint or a question, and how to get hold of that person. Log all complaints include names, phone numbers, the problem for follow up. Designate one person to be your community liaison. While staff on-site can do "Band-Aid interventions," getting a complaint to your administrative designee allows for proper follow-up, consistency of response and control. Develop a written protocol and procedures for staff to follow when a complaint is received.
Requirements for Responding to Neighborhood Incidents and Complaints
Being a good neighbor is not specifically required by a licensing regulation or other laws, but there are some areas of licensing requirements that have been developed in response to public concern in this area. Health and Safety Code Section 1524.5 requires facilities to have written procedures approved by licensing to respond to incidents and complaints. The procedures must include: A fixed weekly time the licensee or their representative will be at the facility to respond to neighborhood complaints. Procedures for notifying the licensee or their representative of neighborhood incidents or complaints. Procedures for the licensee or their representative to personally investigate neighborhood incidents or complaints. Procedures for notifying the person in writing who makes a complaint or reports an incident of the action taken by the facility to fix the problem or a reason why no action was taken.