Homeowners in Garden District want group home removed

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Homeowners in Baton Rouge's Garden District believe residents of a group home are responsible for a string of break-ins. The Harmony Center is located on the corner of Camelia and Government Streets.

There is a neighborhood effort underway to shut it down.

The Garden District is a neighborhood where you find people enjoying the outdoors under the shade of tall Oak trees. It's known for its charm. Anthony Lascaro said it's just one reason he moved here.

"The neighborhood has some character to it. The people, the neighborhood is close to LSU, close to downtown, close to family," Lascaro said.

A couple of weeks ago the peace and quiet Lascaro and some of his neighbors' enjoy was disrupted by burglars.

"It was a smash and grab. They ransacked my bedroom, tossed over some things in the house, then got out of dodge," Lascaro said.

J.T. Bacon said his neighbors were hit too.

"About a week and a half, two weeks ago, we had a break in two houses down from me here on Camelia and from what I understand it was some of the boys from the Harmony House," Bacon said.

The Harmony Center is a group home for young boys, under the direction of Collis Temple.

Garden District Civic Association President, Ray Mack, said four boys who were living at the center were recently arrested in connection to the burglaries.

The Harmony Center is currently empty but neighbors worry another group will move in soon and the problems will return.

"The opinion of the Garden District Civic Association Board is this group home has failed both its neighbors and the boys that live there," Mack said.

Since October of 2010, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services has cited the Harmony Center for a long list of deficiencies including failure to check criminal records, failure to provide residents safeguards, failure to perform preadmission screening and having insufficient qualified staff.

"It makes me a little uncomfortable know that people are running around during the day unsupervised," Lascaro said.

The civic association is asking state leaders to either hire qualified professionals to run the Harmony Center or close its doors.

"We would welcome a good well run group home," Mack said.

With two unsuccessful attempts to overhaul the home, one in 2006 and another in 2008, Mack is convinced a positive transformation is possible only through new leadership.

A spokesperson with the Office of Juvenile Justice said the agency no longer has a contract with the facility.

Collis Temple, the director of Harmony Center, said he is working to improve the group home's relationship with its neighbors. But when 9News asked for details he had no further comment.

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