Is East Falls the kind of community that would welcome a home for sick kids by our favorite residential park?
During the holidays, especially, “home” takes on special meaning. We decorate them, make up our own little rituals when to light this, and where to hang that. We welcome friends and family home, even sing about home in Christmas carols. Everyone needs a place to call home.
Here in East Falls, KenCrest at Midvale & McMichael seeks to create a transitional care home for six ventilated/intubated children in their facility by the park (currently providing daycare for disabled adults).
Not a hospital – it’s as much like a regular home as Ken-Crest can make it. These children are medically fragile but don’t need institutional-level attention. Most of them transition home when their conditions improve or their parents learn to care for them.
KenCrest’s zoning needs a tweak from a social services provider to medical. So last October, they presented to the community’s zoning meeting, and then again at EFCC’s November general meeting which unfortunately was cut short after a member of the audience collapsed (RIP, Bill O’Callaghan).
KenCrest has agreed to delay their Nov 29th ZBA hearing indefinitely, until an agreement can be made with the community. You can read their lawyer’s entire presentation (and audience Q&A) transcribed below but here’s the gist:
- KenCrest is a 110-year old non-profit human services agency for people with developmental disabilities. Ken-Crest has had offices/services in this space on Midvale since 1989.
- Due to regulation changes, KenCrest will no longer be able to provide adult daycare at their Midvale facility.
- KenCrest now seeks to provide care here for children with significant medical conditions, similar to the facility they operate in Roxborough across from Gorgas Park on Ridge (map).
- General age of the children: 1-4 years old. Most come to KenCrest as babies or toddlers, and after a few years transition home with their parents.
- Three staff will be on duty at all times, working two shifts: 7am – 7pm, and 7pm – 7am. A doctor will visit once per week. Additional nursing care may come in a few days a week as needed.
- KenCrest will need to widen their driveway and make some adjustments to their building (a former Lutheran Church). They also have plans for a/c units and a generator (view plans here).
- This will not be a hospital, but a licensed personal care home for six medically disabled children.
- KenCrest feels traffic & activity will likely decrease with medical residential zoning since there will be less people using the facility, and it will be used as a home & not offices.
- There is zero chance KenCrest could expand the number of beds/services at this facility: their state license is extremely specific.
- KenCrest will sign an agreement stating that if they move from this location, the property’s zoning goes back to single family residential.
Of course, protecting your home is as natural as yearning for one. There’s been considerable pushback on Nextdoor as well as at both meetings (we’ve also gotten some emails at EFL).
Neighbor concerns included light, traffic, noise, and whether a 24/7 medical “business” is appropriate for this residential neighborhood. Another frequent echo: what happens if KenCrest leaves, really? Folks worry there’s nothing to stop a heroin clinic from opening here, or a safe injection site or something else that would diminish our quality of life.
Although KenCrest maintains they’re not going anywhere – and they’ll gladly agree to relinquish the property’s medical zoning if they do – for many near neighbors, this isn’t enough. Questions remain: Do we trust KenCrest? What’s wrong with the Falls Center? Is this part of East Falls “too residential” for six medically fragile children to call home?
As EFCC works on an air-tight, enforceable agreement for KenCrest to sign, we present the following full transcription of the KenCrest portion of EFCC’s general meeting for November 6, 2017. Videos, too, so you can read along if you’d like. Wherever possible, we’ve provided names and/or identifying information.
Get involved! We’ll announce the next KenCrest meeting as soon as we’re notified. Meanwhile, review KenCrest’s plans here and keep up with neighborhood chatter on NextDoor and East Falls Rants page on Facebook. Please add your own comments below or email editor@EastFallsLocal.com to submit your editorial for publication (links/documentation appreciated).
— start transcription of KenCrest portion of EFCC General Meeting November 13, 2017 —
(Attorney calls for a show of hands who were at previous meeting)
KENCREST ATTNY: I’ve been doing zoning since 1995, started out with a large law firm – KenCrest is one of my long-time clients and one of my favorites. We heard support for their mission, I know I support their mission which is why they’re still my clients.
Their mission in a nutshell is to provide services and support for folks with disabilities. That’s their universal mission. They’ve been at this location since 1989. They followed a church, the church had social services, they sorta piggybacked onto that prior church social services and from there evolving and it’s no longer religious use but it’s providing, they have administrative offices for some of their personnel to support their mission. And they also administer a daycare operation for about twelve disabled adults. Those folks come in on a daily basis, they then work in the program and then they go out on an assignment <finger quotes> if you will for the day. And the disabled folks are out actually trying to provide some services in the community. So it’s a really really good use. I mean, it’s something I’m always proud when I’m supporting KenCrest.
What they found is that they’d like to take this facility because it’s in a residential neighborhood, it’s zoned for residences, they thought about how to use it in a way that’s a little different than the way that we’re using it.
The sense that I got at the last meeting is that they’ve been great neighbors since 1989, we don’t have any complaints about them.
CYNTHIA KISHINCHAND (audience member): Tree tenders provided trees for them, also.
KENCREST ATTNY: Excuse me?
CYNTHIA: They did. They provided street trees for them. They took good care of them.
KENCREST ATTNY: Yeah, they’re good folks. I didn’t hear any complaints about KenCrest and what they’ve done there since 1989. And I assure you – all three of them will stand up here – they don’t intend to do anything differently with respect to the property: how they maintain it, how maintain the street trees, than they’ve been doing since 1989. This is just an opportunity to fill a need they see in their universe of social services.
They have kids, ok, this is what they want to do. There are kids who’ve done nothing wrong except have the misfortune of being born or developing shortly after birth some sort of significant medical condition that puts them in a situation where their parents can’t necessarily care for them on a daily basis. KenCrest steps in and they provide the support that the parents need including a residential home. So that’s what they’re trying to do here is create a residential home for six kids that are sick and need some support.
It’s not a hospital because these kids have all been discharged from the hospital. They don’t need hospital care. They need just some kind of care. The hope is that with KenCrest’s efforts these kids will grow out of or develop out of whatever conditions, then they can go home and they can live with their parents in their home. But until they can do that, KenCrest provides the home.
So where better to do that than a residential neighborhood? Quite frankly you folks all live in a fabulous residential neighborhood. Which is why KenCrest sees it as a great location for this use. It’s a residential home in a residential neighborhood. They’re not – right now, they’re administrative or an institution. They’re taking that, and translating that or transferring that into a residential use for six sick kids.
They’re have three staff on site around the clock. They’ll have three on staff from 7:00 in the morning to 7:00 at night, and three from 7:00 at night to 7:00 in the morning. A doctor will come in once a week for two or three hours. They’ll have nursing care come in once or twice a week for a few hours. That’s the gist of this program.
It’s hard to… OK, step back and say KenCrest has been a good neighbor for almost 30 years. This use is not anything that could be a detriment to the community. So I’m actually shocked to hear – I mean it’s 2017, I’ve been doing this since 1995, I’m shocked to hear that this is a use… I’m sorry, everybody, it’s your neighborhood. We’re here to listen to what your concerns are because KenCrest… I, frankly, don’t see this as a problematic usage. It’s about as innocuous a residential usage as you can imagine (just not? unintelligible) cause these kids can’t walk on their own. Can’t move on their own, most need wheelchairs, they need help getting around. They’re not gonna be up running up and down the street throwing rocks or smashing pumpkins.
This is not that. This is young kids who come in typically when they’re infants to three or four years old and are provided with this care. Some of them age upward. I was talking to the Kencrest folk before today and I know there is this concern about aging more, perfect time to address it. They’ve had a facility like this for 25 years at another location, the oldest child they’ve ever had in that facility was 16 years old. So this is between birth and probably 16 is the universe of children we’ll probably be dealing with and the problem is — I’ll get to you in a minute, ok? –
The problem is when these kids come in, they’re providing them their homes. These kids see this as their home. If they can’t get over what they have, this is their home. So for us to go up to them and say, “You’re 16 or you’re 17, you’ve gotta leave…” That’s not their mission. Because if they have to leave – typically they go to a nursing home and they’re there with folks 60, 70, 80 years old with a significant geriatric issue, not kids.
So their mission is to provide a home for kids and that’s what they’re trying to do. So having said that, I’ll go over on points. Meg raised the issue, what can you do about age? We don’t forsee that there would ever have to be a need to have someone older than 21 in this facility, that’s what their state licensing allows them to do, to provide these services to kids under 21 that would be the limitation, there wouldn’t be any kids older than 21 here. In 25 years, their oldest has been 16 so more than likely we’re never even going to get to 21.
Even if it’s a 21 year old, again, they’re not gonna be racing up and down the street in their Mustang, making a lot of noise. These kids that have… Again, they’ve done nothing wrong except be born with significant medical issues they can’t deal with, and their parents can’t deal with and that’s where KenCrest steps in.
OK so given that introduction, one of the things we heard last time was there was some planning issues, folks weren’t happy and we actually have taken some steps to make plan changes. (He hands out copies of the plans that we unfortunately never get to this evening, then he fields an audience question basically asking him to repeat everything he’s said about zoning, which I am not re-typing but wow way to waste everyone’s time, whoever that was)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Where are those adults who are now being serviced there, where are they being relocated?
KENCREST CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER WORKING FOR SERVICES: Many many of my earlier years at the Midvale office so I’ve seen how we’ve been there and been involved with the community. To the question about the folks who are they now, there are many many things happening – good things, I think, around regulations and how we can help people be more in the community. So we actually will be doing other things with those folks. So they will be either attached to more community-based services where we might meet them at a local something community and those folks are gonna be doing things we call “Community Participation.” So they’ll be engaged in things like helping Meals on Wheels and doing all sorts of things. They really won’t need that type of facility that we have them coming to now. So that’s part of the change.
And I think just a couple of clarifications. The children that we’re talking about – and they are children – they all have very complex medical conditions. Most of them are vented and trach’d, and that’s why they’re not home with their families. Their families just cannot take care of them. And not to tell a long story, but I can tell you a story about one of the ways this came about 25 years ago.
As a teacher I was at a conference at CHOP and they were explaining how these children who were in the hospital who couldn’t go home, and that’s where they were living. And my boss, you know, the fact that these little babies were living in a hospital. And they were talking about technology and how they were using communication for it. And this was all really good stuff. Wasn’t it wonderful that all these little guys — they could point to the picture of a dog, or they could touch this.
And it hit me that they’ve never touched a dog. Seen a dog. Smelled a dog. Because they’re in a hospital. And that, just really – what that does to the family unit. Our goal is — we call this our “Transitional Care Home.” The idea is that we bring these children in, there are two nurses on staff all the time. And really what we’re trying to do is get them so that they don’t need their trach or their vent.
We have been very very successful. We have one of our nurses here to talk about the length of stay, but the reality is that this is about really transitioning. These are kids, their families can come, we can train them. And when we get to a place that maybe they’re stable enough, they can go home. Sometimes they go into foster care, sometimes they’re adopted. But as we’ve said, the oldest child that has been there was 16, but I’m happy to say he was adopted. So he has gone home to a family.
Most of the other children are about six. Four, five, six.
DAVID: I think there’s a tremendous amount of support in this room for you. I for example worked for two to three years with handicapped populations, I certainly understand the need to provide services for them in a humane environment. I don’t really think that that’s the question we’re grappling with tonight. The issue with whether or not a particular facility on McMichael street should transition to another use. And so I guess one of my questions for you would be, is it possible for KenCrest to continue using facility as its using it now? Or are those children all on their way to helping Meals on Wheels in other transitional environments?
CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: I think that there probably would not be, we would not be able to continue use it as it is now. Just because of our regulations.
CYNTHIA: The plan is now to serve six children. Is there anything that would have you coming back in a few years and say, “Well we wanna add four more stories?” My other question is there any possibility for making it a LEEDS building? Environmentally? Also how much outdoor space will you be providing these children? The way I looked at it, they’re basically going to be indoors all the time. You mentioned a dog. Generally dogs like to be outdoors.
CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: I think the plans, there is the kind of space that we have for our other homes, right? (Looks to KenCrest nurse standing off to side)
NURSE: In the lawn there is space for a playground area… (points briefly to plan)… towards McMichael… But there were a couple of comments, let me address the other parts of the question. First of all, according to our license, we are absolutely not allowed to have more than six beds. It’s a state regulation, that’s non-negotiable. We would never even be able to ask for more beds, because the state will not allow it.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Is that based on the size of the facility or something else..?
NURSE: No, it’s based on the “Intermittent Care Facility” regulations that regulate the facility. We can not. They will not allow us to open any more beds.
CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: Some states have much larger ones. Pennsylvania has really worked towards the idea that folks should have more residential, are a part of a community.
NURSE: As far as the children getting out, we do propose a playground area on the grounds but also under our regulations – and we work very hard at this – our children get out into the community. We bring extra staff in to support that. We take one or two out to the mall, we take them to the zoo. We have “social outings,” we call them, monthly for all the children, We work very very hard to give these children as normal a life as possible, outside into the community.
We went to the Pumpkin Patch for Halloween. We dress them all up in costumes and take them trick or treating. We bring extra support in to make this happen. Whether it’s one on one, two or three for one. We went down to Ocean City last summer. We took a child to Disney World with Make a Wish.
PAUL ELIA (audience member & member of EFCC zoning committee): One of the things that concerns us is, should a variance be granted, in the event that Kencrest decides to leave, the variance is written. Who knows what could move in.
KENCREST ATTNY: It’s zoned for single family residential. If KenCrest is going to leave, another owner would have to use it exactly as KenCrest is using it: as a personal care home for six children. Cause that’s what the variance would specify. If they want to do something different – anything different than that would have to go to Zoning.
That’s part of what we’re willing to put in this agreement, is that anything different than what we’re proposing now will go back to the zoning board, because that’s what the zoning board would require, what LNI would require. And that would require we come back here. So we think it’s very protective of the community’s interests, cause this is a variance. While it does run with the land, it’s restricted to just the use that we’re granted.
EFCC ZONING DUDE FROM BACK: Bill, would you be willing to limit that to KenCrest as owners? And that be an enforceable agreement with the community?
KENCREST ATTNY: Yeah I can talk to them about that. I mean, the reality is that probably we’re not gonna have – lemme talk to them. Just from a timing point, if we can’t resolve this in time for the 29th – I’ve already spoken to KenCrest – we’ll move to extend it. It’ll probably be like 4 to 6 weeks, it’ll probably be that date will be end of December, early January. We’re not trying to force this down anyone’s throat or force a decision quickly.
EFCC ZONING DUDE FROM BACK: Why don’t you just agree to that now, we don’t have – seriously. All these questions, all the people that are in here…
KENCREST ATTNY: I know but I’ve got… You know it is, I have clients, you ask the clients first <COO gives thumbs up behind him> Even though mine just said yes.
EFCC ZONING DUDE FROM BACK: Good!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: What was that again? Cause I’m not a lawyer…
KENCREST ATTNY: The question was, If the variance is granted – if the approval is granted by the zoning board – would we be willing to live with the condition that says if KenCrest sells the building, any new owner would have to come back and get re-approved. Right?
EFCC ZONING DUDE FROM BACK: Yes that was my question. And I’m not suggesting I’m in favor by asking that.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Can we come back to age? Cause I had the distinct impression earlier you were willing to lower the age to 1 to 4 as part of the agreement – now you’re back to 16 to 21 and that’s certainly a barrier I don’t to cross. It’s too old in my book. Especially if we’re granting some might-be house on some future, that’s not even a building today. (?)
KENCREST ATTNY: We’re talking about children, and the definition of “children” can go up to 18, up to 21. So that’s where we are. Their mission is to give these kids a home. So the reality is where a kid comes in at 4, 5 or 6 – they’d then have to move him out of the only home he’s ever known into another location, maybe to a nursing home or…
AUDIENCE MEMBER: So <??> be there on a short-term basis and now I’m hearing they’re gonna be there for years.
CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: Our goal is always transitional care… The idea is to be able to get these medically-fragile children to a place where they’re stable enough that they can either go home or into the foster system or be adopted. There are times, I think we’ve had two children reach their early teen years –
AUDIENCE MEMBER: So why is it so difficult for you to make an agreement that doesn’t allow that to happen? It’s doublespeak.
CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: They come to us as basically babies, and historically we have been able to move them through. But I won’t want to say to because… This fella that was with us until he was 15, he was just not in a position where he could move on. He still had his physical issues.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’m gonna be <unintelligible> but see after they <unintelligble>
BILL EPSTEIN (president of EFCC): Excuse me, we’ll have to give other people opportunity, we’ll get back to you.
ABOVE VIDEO: Zoning question again going over specifics: it’s not a hospital but a personal health care home. Pennsylvania has regulations for their model, but Phila zoning doesn’t have a specific category for it, blah blah, license is different than zoning, blah blah… No transcription, sorry guys I didn’t see any point in it but you can read up on Philly Zoning here.
CHRISTINA KISTLER (audience member, near neighbor, lifelong Fallser):
So this is my concern. Even if you don’t see KenCrest as a hospital, but the city – you know, LNI views it as a hospital – and ten, fifteen, twenty years from now KenCrest says OK, we’re moving on out of East Falls. The facility is designated as a hospital and then that opens the door to a lot of other possibilities that would not be residential in nature and would not necessarily have East Falls in, you know, mind.
So the only way to really, in my mind is, to help settle a lot of the concerns is, if there’s a way – and I don’t know if there is, I am not a lawyer – but I’m hearing comments that there’s possibly a way that the thing’s written in such a way that they’re really tight. Essentially saying “It’s this way, and if we leave it goes back to what it was”? And that there’s no other ability for it to become, maybe it’s a heroin addiction facility or maybe it’s something else that could bring a whole different element into the community.
So it is fear of the unknown, it’s the What If’s..? What would this become? But it’s a really quiet neighborhood. I’ve grown up in this area all my life. I remember it being the church that it was. My sisters and this guy there went to preschool there, back in the old days before it turned into KenCrest. And you know, KenCrest has been a wonderful neighbor. And we want to support you and we are really in support of the mission. But it’s, what could happen if you walked away from this current idea. And so how do we tighten it up to make sure that if we agree to what you’re proposing to make it be that and nothing more – so that it couldn’t go beyond to something that really could be detrimental to the neighborhood. Which would affect property values, it will affect our livelihood, and our ability to enjoy the neighborhood as it is.
KENCREST ATTNY: It’s not a hospital designation, it’s for a personal care home for children.
<some members of audience insist it’s getting hospital zoning while KenCrest insists no, they’re a personal care home>
BILL: Robert, you had your hand up.
ROBERT RABINOWITZ (audience member): In 1970, I had the opportunity to work with the Sons of Italy wanted to donate a building to Pennsylvania Hospital that was going to be used as a facility for mentality retarded adults. Now, when you sit in a room with those gentlemen, the community doesn’t matter. I mean, it really doesn’t matter. I didn’t argue with them while I was there, I was an attending at the hospital but they included me and they had their discussion and they ended up with a facility for the mentally retarded that led to the development of some group homes and these are very medically fragile people.
I supervised a program in 1975 at Philadelphia Hospital there is when you’re talking about medically fragile people, the difference between 16 and 21… <shakes head> There’s really no difference. They’re very damaged people. There’s not much difference in terms of chronological age, they’re not getting older, they’re little babies who happen to increase in size, and their poop gets bigger and is a pain to clean up. That’s basically what it’s all about.
They need a place to live. They really need a place to live and I think we have an obligation as a community to not only recognize that they have a need for a place to live and not only recognize that there are people who want to provide that for them. But we also have an obligation to see what we can do with you to make that possible.
It would seem to me that one outcome of this meeting might be to have a committee of lawyers, doctors, whatever from the community work with you, with an understanding that we recognize and support the need for people to live, work out some accommodation plan, and have both members of this group and members of KenCrest come back and meet with us again and tell us what has come about so that we can take a vote on what we know everyone has participated in putting together. Thank you.
LEE ZEHELENDER (audience member): I’m a direct neighbor, and one of the things that someone said to me that I’ve been thinking about is… And lemme tell ya right now, what you’re doing is really important. I totally get that. But the space is tight. And I’ve looked at the Waterman (?) space – much bigger. If I were a kid I’d want to live over there.
And then I looked at Roxborough, and it’s much bigger and doesn’t have as many neighbors around. What’s the impact? And the impact for us as an entire community is about the traffic that we’re now dealing with it’s probably ten-fold since I’ve moved here. From buses and… I don’t know what to do. And that’s the piece of it that you don’t know.
The other day I looked and there’s an Acura just totally dented in on the side of your building. It was there for days. So the amount of traffic and the vans when you’re parking them, can’t see around them so people are getting into accidents from those vans.
And that’s the impact. It’s that we are living with so much more traffic. So there’s people coming and going in and out of your facility… Umm… The light. The noise from the generators. Those are impacts in any community – that’s what Philadelphia worries about most. That’s what people will complain about most. The noise, light, and the traffic.
And all of that it seems to me would have to increase, because you’re now going from a business that operates from 9 to 5 to a business that operates 7 days a week, 24/7, and it’s a huge concern but trust me when I tell you, I know it’s important what you do. One of my dear friends is a respiratory therapist in Children’s Hospital in Boston, he’s in Africa right now helping children there – I get it.
And we all feel really guilty about that, I’m mean, this could happen in our community <finger quotes>. It isn’t about the children. It’s about the impact. We’ve already suffered in traffic, Paul (gestures towards Paul Elia). <unintelligible> Henry and PennDOT (?) … You can’t see how it will get better, just see how it would get worse.
BILL O’CALLAGHAN (audience member and neighbor on Midvale): This is the 2nd meeting I’ve been at and it’s <unintelligible>
I guess I’m on the tail end (?) of <unintelligible> but I’ve been a 27-year neighbor of yours on Midvale Avenue. Please don’t take offense and nothing personal but as neighbors go, you guys suck!
I mean, you’ve been annoying pain-in-my-butts so much that I fought your office staff and your driving staff for the first fifteen years and finally threw my hands up in the air because KenCrest does what KenCrest wants.
The only reprieve I’ve had in 27 years now is at 5 o’clock when you went home. Weekends you weren’t there. But during the day, from 8 to 5 you’re terrible. Any comments?
KENCREST ATTNY: Uh uh… you uh… haven’t made any of these comments as I recall at the last meeting.
BILL: Well I’m making them now!
KENCREST ATTNY: No well it’s news to me so tell me specifically, give me some specifics.
BILL: I’ve been frought with you for over ten years now cause I throw my hands up in the air. Prior to that, I fight your staff every week about putting your trash out at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon.
All kinds of stupid kinda crap like that. Your staff parks in front of our driveway. I ask if I can get out. “When I’m done I’ll be back.” Constant cars over there. You need off street parking now with a big 25 foot driveway. You never parked off the street in 27 years. Why do you gotta rip the tail end of the building down to put a 25 foot wide driveway in?
Now you want to put generators and air conditioners all along Midvale? <pause> I’m like, what the, what did we do to you? I’ve been there 27 years, I’m trying to live my life happily and you guys just make a pain-in-the-ass nuisance neighbor ever since I’ve been in there!
KENCREST ATTNY: Again, this is the first that I’ve in all the years I’ve been representing…
BILL: Well maybe you people aren’t around during the day, but I’m in and out all day and I see it going on constantly. You got four vans sitting there. CCT buses double parked. Buses trying to go up and down the street, Septa. You’re nothing but a nuisance in my opinion. I’d prefer it if you actually sold and left. I’d <unintelligible> anything other than you guys.
KENCREST ATTNY: OK well some of that may because it’s currently an institutional-type usage…
BILL: And 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is supposed to be better for me?
KENCREST ATTNY: Well we’re going to residential use which is residential, it’s a residential area, so…
BILL: Tell me the truth, is the driveway for deliveries and for ambulances?
CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER: No…. We actually, because of the residential houses – and I do, uh… I do apologize and feel terrible that we haven’t had… Oh my god!
— End Transcription (and meeting) –
KenCrest is a 110-year-old non-profit human services agency that is the largest provider of community-based services and supports in the Delaware Valley and Connecticut for people with developmental disabilities. Headquartered in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, we serve over 11,000 children and adults and their families ranging in age from infants to senior adults in over 300 locations across the region.
KenCrest’s Mission: To provide quality services to people with developmental disabilities in a manner that respects individual rights, enhances ability, and enables people to have control over their own lives.