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HALFWAY HOUSE DRAWS CRITICISM.

Byline: Greg Botonis Staff Writer

ACTON - Residents of a rural area outside Acton are upset about a rehabilitation halfway house for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, many of them ex-convicts.

Peaceful Valley residents say men brought in by the Armenian American Christian Outreach facility drink in their neighborhood and are believed to be responsible for crimes including drug use, a break-in at a nearby house and speeding on the area's dirt roads.

``It's been a nightmare here,'' said one resident, who asked that her name not be used. ``One of our neighbors was a jogger and ran every day until she was approached by a couple of those men. They are very inappropriate, pulling down their pants and things like that. She doesn't go out to run anymore.''

Two men have died at the home, including one who hung himself, officials said. Nearby residents say the deaths make them question the quality of care at the home and convinces them it doesn't deserve to get government money for taking in the men.

Los Angeles County and sheriff's officials said they are aware of the residents' complaints. They said officials have inspected the home and are investigating but that state law limits what actions they can take. State law allows such homes in residential areas as long as they have no more than six residents.

The home's owner said it helps people who need help overcoming their addictions, and that clients are being blamed unfairly for anything bad that happens in the area.

``We are trying to help people and these people keep trying to knock us down,'' said Bedros Hajian. ``Every time there's a car driving down the lane too fast, they blame us for it even though we don't know who it is. It's very interesting that people hate us for no reason. Most of the neighbors are very nice to us but some are just very mean.''

In one instance, residents blame a home burglary on a former facility client who had been thrown out of the facility. The client's girlfriend was arrested on suspicion of trying to cash a check stolen from the home, sheriff's officials said.

Neighbors also say that even though the home is licensed by the state for six people, there are as many as 15 there at any one time. Officials confirm that they have found more than six people at the home.

``The fire department has indicated seeing more there every time they go out but we've been assured that only six are actually sleeping there at any one time,'' said Norm Hickling, an aide to Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. ``They say that the Bible study and counseling draws more people during the day.''

Officials said they are trying to make sure the facility complies with legal requirements, but that state law does not allow them to shut it down for violations.

State officials may pull the license that authorizes it to provide medical services, but residents would still be able to live there as long as medical services are not being provided.

``These things can pop up overnight but they can't be dealt with overnight,'' Hickling said. ``The supervisor is doing everything in his power to make sure that these problems get taken care of as soon as possible.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 29, 2004
Words:551
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