Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Another Look at the Park Hotel

Knowing that United Family & Children’s Society is involved with the Park Hotel, Plaintalker reached out to Executive Director Thomas Reedy for more information.

In an interview Wednesday, Reedy said the agency has five staff members who are housed within the hotel itself to operate a Community Support Program. The staff offers support and advocacy through a contract with the state Division of Mental Health Services.

“They are very much a part of the fabric of the life of that hotel,” Reedy said.

Among many activities, clients have a softball team that is in a league with similar agencies. Residents take van trips, such as to Spruce Run and to New Hope for shopping ands sightseeing this month. Other trips have taken them to Round Valley, Seaside Heights and Flemington.

Reedy gave a lengthy roster of groups and clubs, covering current events, exercise, books, art, men’s and women’s issues and a movie of the week. Vans daily take about 50 clients to partial care facilities and some work at an occupational center in Roselle. Each December, art students of staff member Pedro Martinez take part in an art show at the agency.

“We are interested in helping those residents get a mainstream kind of life,” he said. “They are a vulnerable population, but not a dangerous population.”

Reedy said the people are “very nice.”

“We know them very well. We’re here to support them and help them be successful in the community,” he said.

The population of about 170 residents is able to live outside institutions because of advances in psychotropic medicine that keep their conditions under control. And he said, “They have a right to live in the community.”

Residents also receive visits from a psychiatrist and a psychiatric nurse and are under “intensive case management.” If a resident’s condition changes, local hospitals are prepared to treat them, he said.

Beyond what agencies and medical practitioners do for the residents, Reedy said it is a little known fact that they receive support from many churches “inside and outside Plainfield.” One church provided shoes for residents and another donates gifts for those celebrating birthdays at monthly parties. United Way volunteers help out at the annual residents’ picnic in September, he said.

“There are many people trying to support these residents to be successful and happy and to participate in society,” he said.

Reedy said some have lived at the hotel so long that Plainfield is in fact their home.

On Monday, Assemblyman Jerry Green asked the City Council for support in seeking the closing of the Park Hotel and relocation of its clients to group homes.

Reedy said Wednesday there would be “a tremendous cost to reposition these clients.”

As reported in blogs and print media, the Park Hotel’s annual license is up for renewal Aug. 31. The facility has no violations that would preclude renewal, according to a spokesman for the Department of Community Affairs.

Plaintalker will report on future developments regarding the Park Hotel.


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