Group home for people with mental disabilities proves disruptive in single family neighborhood

A group home at 54 Vandora Drive in Manchester operated by Community Options Inc. of Nashua.

MANCHESTER, NH – About 8 p.m. on a Saturday night in June, a huge man opened a patio door to enter the home of Will Gauthier, 85, at 63 Robert Hall Road.

“He did come through the patio door,” Gauthier said in recounting the incident. “We didn’t know what was going on.  Someone was trying to keep him under control and direct him back onto the patio.  They looked at me and said, ‘Call the police.’”

As he was making the 911 call, two caregivers wrangled the man out of Gauthier’s home.

“By the time I got the police on the phone they were walking him back to his house,” said Gauthier who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years. 

As a result, police never came to investigate.  

“This has always been a quiet neighborhood,” Gauthier said. 

It changed, however, after Community Options Inc. of Nashua in November 2023 purchased the four-bedroom, 1 ½ bath home at 54 Vandora Drive for $468,800, according to the city’s assessors’ database.  On March 12, 2024, it purchased another single-family home at 7 Rosewood Lane for $566,000.

The man who entered Gauthier’s home uninvited lives at that residence at 54 Vandora Drive, where neighbors say, two other people with mental disabilities also reside.  All are overseen by caregivers in the group home setting.

Residents say there was never a hearing about a group home for people with developmental challenges being established in their tidy, quiet, single-family neighborhood.

Manchester Ink Link spoke briefly to Greg Lafreniere, the company’s executive director, but he declined comment citing client confidentiality. “Thank you for reaching out to me,” he said and then referred a reporter to the company’s corporate headquarters in Princeton, N.J.

Ink Link left a message requesting comment from the New Jersey company, which responded with the following statement, after publication:

“Community Options is committed to integrating people with disabilities into the community while maintaining a peaceful environment for all residents. We have increased staffing and implemented additional supports to address all concerns promptly. We are committed to being good neighbors and will continue to foster an inclusive community where everyone feels welcome and valued.”

“It was a shock to us,” said David Crear, who lives at 64 Vandora Drive with his wife, Kelly, and their two children, of the group home being established in their neighborhood.  There was never a hearing, he said.   

Will Gauthier stands on his porch at his hom on Vandora Drive where a group home for adults with mental disabilities has caused disruption. Photo/Pat Grossmith

The company’s website indicates it obtained funding through the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Bureau of Developmental Services. 

According to DHHS, the state invested a total of $12,460,000 to increase in-state capacity for individuals who have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and who require a higher level of care due to behavioral support needs.  The funds are to be used to create 114 beds in 33 homes statewide through 9 contracts.

DHHS awarded Community Options, founded in 2023 to provide residential and employment support services to individuals with disabilities living in Nashua and local areas, a total of $3.2 million in funding for 2024 and 2025.   

Under its contact, Community Options is to purchase no fewer than 12 existing homes at locations in New Hampshire, as approved by DHHS to house a minimum of 32 individuals.  Housing sizes may vary depending on the availability of housing stock.  Community Options is to be reimbursed for a portion of the housing acquisition costs, as well as personnel, supplies, training, and other costs necessary to place the housing units in service.

Justin Parker of 26 Vandora Drive said his understanding is the company is looking to buy another 20 properties.  Parker didn’t say whether that is in Manchester or includes other New Hampshire towns or cities.

Residents along Vandora Drive recounted several incidents of the man, whose name is “Corey,” walking into their homes.  The neighborhood has been a safe and quiet one.  Residents routinely leave doors unlocked, particularly in the summer when children are outside playing, but some are now considering changing to keyless locks with passcodes because of the repeated intrusions.

Parker, the father of a newborn, said the disabled man tried to get into his home on Sunday, June 2.  The man’s caregivers yelled for them to lock their doors, which they did, preventing him from getting inside.

Gauthier said another time, the man was outside a police officer’s home on Robert Hall Road and peeled off his clothes until he was buck naked.

On Saturday, June 1, 2024, the Crear family went for a walk and when they returned between 7:45 and 8 p.m., they saw “Corey” struggling with two of his caregivers.  Crear said Corey never wants to go back into the house.

The family stayed outside to watch so they could call police if the caregivers were assaulted.  “He’s walloped the caregivers a couple of times,” Crear said.

Later, he learned from a neighbor, Ron Rousseau, that while the family was out for their walk, Corey had entered their home.  Crear said nothing appeared to be disturbed and if his neighbor hadn’t told him, he would never had known anyone had been inside his home.

“We can’t have this with children in the neighborhood,” Crear said.

What is happening in the neighborhood became public when Rousseau spoke about the problem before a meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Tuesday, June 4.

“This person is wreaking havoc in the neighborhood,” Rousseau, who resides at 78 Vandora Drive, told the aldermen.   He said Community Options placed a special needs person, diagnosed with autism on a low functioning scale, who is violent in their neighborhood. 

 “There’s a lot of kids in the neighborhood and this kid is violent,” Rousseau told the aldermen. “We have him on a ring camera and he is hitting his worker.  I don’t know how somebody can walk into a neighborhood and place somebody with special needs there without any regulation.”

He said police were called 17 times about this man and now, he said, they refuse to come back. Other neighbors said officers said they will respond when it is a call to involuntarily commit the man to the state hospital.

Police provided logs of the calls to Vandora Drive which indicate they were called 10 times between March 18 and June 4, 2024.  Two calls indicated a mental health issue, one solved at the scene and the other referred to another agency; two were for lockouts, both solved at the scene.

The state DHHS awarded Community Options, founded in 2023 to provide residential and employment support services to individuals with disabilities living in Nashua and local areas, a total of $3.2 million in funding for 2024 and 2025. Vandora Drive resident David Crear wonders how a company was allowed to purchase a residential home for people with disabilities without neighbors being informed. Photo/Pat Grossmith

The June 1, 2024 call, the one made by Gauthier at 7:57 p.m., was to “assist other agency” and then the call was cancelled.

Another call on May 30, 2024 was for “disorderly conduct in progress” but was recorded as solved at scene.

On May 8, 2024, and again on May 13, 2024, police were called for an assault at 54 Vandora Drive. Both were listed as emergencies with one requiring a backup unit and the other resulting in a police report being filed.

On April 28,  2024,they were called to check the condition of a subject but the issue, while listed as an emergency, was solved at the scene.

On April 7, 2024, police were called to “check area for problem” but again the issue was solved at the scene.

After a reporter made an inquiry concerning police being called to the neighborhood repeatedly, Heather Hamel, police spokesman, said, “Officers have recently gone to the neighborhood and addressed concerns.”

Asked about neighbors saying officers told them they were not coming out again unless it was for an “involuntary commitment,” she said, “Police will always respond when called.”

Rousseau, in addressing aldermen, contended that the situation is going to end badly.

“He is going to wander into the wrong house,” he said.

Neighbors worry that a homeowner will shoot the man and/or inadvertently hit one of the caregivers.

 “If this company is able to do this here, there may be houses all over Manchester they’ll buy,” Rousseau told the aldermen.  “How would you like to have this company buy a nice house in your neighborhood and drop three patients in it and then you have to deal with this?  We’re not equipped to deal with this kind of problem and we shouldn’t have to as citizens especially where we have nowhere else to turn.”

He urged the aldermen to look into the situation and, if need, pass legislation to bar it from happening.

Last Friday afternoon, a reporter spoke briefly to two caregivers who drove up to 54 Vandora Drive.  They provided her with Lafreniere’s contact information.

A short time after, as the reporter was across the street, a large man got out of the rear seat of their SUV and the two women caregivers guided him toward the house.

The man wailed as they tried to bring him into the house, loud enough for the reporter to hear him more than 40 feet away. Eventually, with their coaxing, he went inside.

Three people who were sitting in a truck parked nearby, waiting for a resident to arrive at another Vandora Drive home, spoke about an incident on a previous day when a shirtless man, standing in an upstairs window of the 54 Vandora Drive house, remained at the window staring at them for a lengthy time.

“It was unsettling,” the woman said.

Parker said Community Options told him they are trying to rehouse the man but said it can take six months to a year to find another placement for him.