After rash of police calls, City Council approves mitigation plan for SLS

Residents have voiced concern about tenants of Supportive Living Solutions’ 1425, 1435 and 1445 Bidwell Street buildings in West St. Paul. According to police chief Bud Shaver, in the past three months 46 police calls have been made in relation to the SLS tenants or guests of the tenants. “It’s been a busy property,” Shaver said. “The change in behavior in and around the Bidwell complex has caused a great deal of concern for the neighbors.” Shaver said that many of the 911 calls entailed loud and boisterous
Residents have voiced concern about tenants of Supportive Living Solutions’ 1425, 1435 and 1445 Bidwell Street buildings in West St. Paul. According to police chief Bud Shaver, in the past three months 46 police calls have been made in relation to the SLS tenants or guests of the tenants. “It’s been a busy property,” Shaver said. “The change in behavior in and around the Bidwell complex has caused a great deal of concern for the neighbors.” Shaver said that many of the 911 calls entailed loud and boisterous yelling, crude profanity, assaults, intoxication, trespassing, threats, theft, burglary and drug-use. (Jesse Poole photos/Review)

In a move to re-establish a sense of safety and security for the community — specifically the neighbors living near Supportive Living Solutions’ Bidwell Street properties — the City Council unanimously decided to convert SLS’s rental license to a provisional license with a mitigation plan at its Sept. 14 City Council meeting.

The approved mitigation plan, created and proposed by police chief Bud Shaver, lists 23 actions meant to help enhance SLS’s efforts and reduce neighbors’ anxiety. The move stems from an increase in criminal and disruptive behavior in and around 1425, 1435 and 1445 Bidwell Street.

Just around the corner

Supportive Living Solutions, which owns multiple properties in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, is a for-profit organization that seeks to provide both housing and supportive services for individuals who qualify.

Depending on the location, SLS supports individuals from categories that include chemical dependence, long-term homelessness, and those who live with mental illness, all, ideally, seeking recovery, and all referred to SLS by the county.

According to CEO Bill Arrigoni, few issues have stemmed from these established locations. But according to residents neighboring SLS’s Bidwell Street buildings, disturbance issues are dealt out daily. According to police reports, many of these incidents entailed loud and boisterous yelling, crude profanity, assaults, intoxication, trespassing, threats, theft, burglary and drug-use.

According to Shaver, from January to May, police received 32 service calls related to the SLS residents. Shaver said in that populous a living situation, 32 calls over the course of five months isn’t far out of the ordinary.

But, he said, more recently, from June to August, police received 46 calls in relation to those three buildings. He said that amount of calls and complaints in only three months needed to be addressed.

“It’s been a busy property,” Shaver said. “The change in behavior in and around the Bidwell complex has caused a great deal of concern for the neighbors.”

According to City Council members Ed Iago and Jenny Halverson, both representing the neighborhoods surrounding the SLS buildings in Ward II, they had received a number of letters showing concern and fear from numerous residents and especially from residents of the apartment building across the street, where they say many elderly people reside.

Reworking the clientele

According to Shaver, SLS staff and management have been working with the Affordable Housing Coalition of Dakota County, the City of West St. Paul and the police department to address and fix the various issues, the most significant of which, Arrigoni and SLS vice president of operations Joe Cuoco openly admitted at the City Council meeting, was opening Bidwell’s doors to individuals with criminal backgrounds, coming from community corrections, while at the same time not having proper staffing to take care of and keep an eye on those individuals.

In the weeks preceding the public hearing at the City Council meeting, SLS evicted six clients who they say were causing most of the problematic behavior in the Bidwell neighborhood. SLS also installed security cameras and increased staffing hours.

According to SLS and police, in the 14 days preceding the meeting, the number of police calls decreased significantly.

The City Council, however, opted to enact the mitigation plan to make sure the organization stays on track in complying with city regulations, and to show concerned neighbors that the city hears them, said Halverson.

City attorney Korine Land listed the points in the mitigation plan, including that client background checks would be provided when requested by the city, that service staffing would be increased to 40 hours per week, that round-the-clock security staffing would be established on a 60-day trial basis, and that the premises would be alcohol-free.

According to Shaver, the alcohol ban itself may cut down a lot of the problems.

“Alcohol was a common denominator in a lot of the police calls,” Shaver said.

Comply and move forward

Receiving funds from the state to house its clients, SLS is relatively new to West St. Paul. SLS bought the Colony Park Apartments on Bidwell Street at the end of 2014, and incrementally filled up to 14 of its units with clients and the remaining units with market rate tenants.

“Supportive Living Solutions are really trying to be good managers,” Shaver said. “A lot of times we’d have to suggest to them things to do and they would jump on those things and get them done. So I don’t want to paint the picture that they were just laying back and collecting the rent and doing nothing, but still, the problems really escalated.”

According to Dakota County Social Service housing manager Madeline Kastler, the county selected SLS as a service provider “because their excellent reputation in the field and their extensive experience providing housing and services to persons with disabilities.”

Kastler said that SLS selected the Bidwell location because of West St. Paul’s “access to transportation and jobs,” which she said are two critical factors that lead to long-term housing stability.

According to the City Council, SLS is welcome to remain in town, as long as it complies with the mitigation plan.

“Our goal is always to improve the property; unfortunately at the beginning, that did not happen here,” said Cuoco.

Both Arrigoni and Cuoco said SLS would do what it takes to “restore trust” in the community.

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815. Follow him at twitter.com/JPooleNews.

 

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