Care Concerns: Neighborhood Battles Issues with New Neighbors

By Jill Kasparie, KCRG-TV9

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A neighborhood is rallying to shut down a Cedar Rapids home that provides residential care for people with disabilities, taking their case to state and city officials.

They said no one told them exactly what or who was moving in next door. Now, they say it’s causing nothing but problems. Neighbors said the trouble started in December when the new neighbors moved in. That’s when police started becoming frequent visitors there. According to city records, police have responded to that house 19 times since December 20, 2013.

The Cedar Rapids City Assessor’s site said Soji and Romoke Olutunde own the home.

It sits right next to Linda Howe’s house. She has lived in the neighborhood for more than 40 years.

“It’s nice and calm and relaxing,” Howe said.

That, however, recently changed.

“In December we got what I consider a group home moved in next door. We were told that it was going to be a couple with three adult handicapped children. But it ended up to be about four residents in a home with caretakers coming in and out,” Howe said.

She keeps a log of everything that happens next door, every disturbance gets noted.

“If there was a police call I circled, this was the ninth call, the tenth call,” Howe said as she pointed to a notebook.

The Iowa Department of Human Services or DHS said people there are receiving what’s called waiver services under the Medicaid program. Those are for people with a number of disabilities and older Iowans living in a community setting.

“You can have a home with people — four or fewer people receiving waiver service and this is just a landlord/tenant relationship. These are people who are choosing where they want to live, and we don’t certify the setting they are in. We only certify the services they are getting,” said DHS Public Information Officer Amy McCoy.

The city is in charge of the setting or the zoning for the house, but neighbors discovered this house didn’t have that correct zoning permit.

“Typically the owner would come in for the petition and request the conditional use before the start of operations. This is a state-licensed organization so there may have been confusion on the owner’s part that receiving the state license also gave him city permission,” said Cedar Rapids Development Services Program Manager Joe Mailander.

That led upset neighbors to a showdown at a recent city planning commission meeting.

“It’s a ticking time bomb, it really is,” one man said during the meeting.

“I’m not against helping people who need help. The biggest problem I have here is those clients aren’t getting any help,” another man said.

The homeowner, Soji Olutunde, declined to comment after the meeting. He did not respond to other requests for an interview.

During the city hearing, he said he did not know the city required a permit and assured the city he was addressing the disturbances.

“Some of them that have behavior that we cannot really control, it is too much. We plan to discharge them,” Olutunde said.

The commission recommended denying the permit. The Board of Adjustments will make a final decision.

Upset neighbors also contacted DHS, which already took action.

“With Mr. Olutunde, he is going to be terminated as a direct care provider,” McCoy said.

The state revoked his Medicaid reimbursement, in part because of a criminal charge. Olutunde has a trial in June for “Dependent Adult Abuse” in Johnson County. DHS said the agency he works for, which his wife owns, also has been terminated from the Medicaid program.

The department said despite cases like this, these community services are important.

“The movement in disability rights is to have people integrated in their community and do community living. These are our neighbors who may need just a little extra help to be able to be in their community, and that’s how the system works is to be able to provide them with those services and support,” McCoy said.

Neighbors want the people living in the home to get the proper help they deserve. Until they think that’s happening, the neighbors, especially Linda, will keep an eye on it.

DHS said the agency, All Ages Care Services, will need to stop providing services by about the end of May, and Mr. Olutunde stopped getting his reimbursement last month.

As for the house, the state does not regulate where people live who are getting services. That means those people can still live there, but another agency would have to provide the care they need. The city, however, noted the homeowners would need the correct permit to continue operating as is.

l Comments: 319-398-8268; jill.kasparie@kcrg.com

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