Father faces lawsuit over home for developmentally disabled son
Paul Smith's developmentally disabled son has called the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center in Enid his home for half a decade.
"The state is not doing them any favors by kicking them out," said Smith.
NORCE will close by 2015. DHS says there are currently 50 residents living at the facility. Smith wants to move his son, Weston to a home he plans to build, about eight miles away in Garfield County.
"We were being nice, and went to neighbors, told them basically what we are doing," said Smith.
Instead of a welcome to the neighborhood, Smith faces a lawsuit.
"It is a big mess," said Smith.
Smith showed us a letter from an attorney representing his next-door neighbors and two other families living in the neighborhood. Mark Stonecipher, an attorney with Fellers-Snider, an Oklahoma City based law firm represents Bogert Farms, Jon and Emily Hulsey, Dave and Madelyn Keck, and Eddie Bowen. Stonecipher declined multiple requests for an interview but said in a letter to Smith, the lawsuit was filed over zoning concerns.
"They are trying to say I am building a business," said Smith, "operating a commercial facility there."
Smith says he only wants to build a home, two other NORCE residents would rent from him, but the letter from Stonecipher alleged Smith would run a residential care facility if more than one NORCE resident became his son's roommate.
"It is not a group home, it is not a residential care facility, it is a home," said Sheree Powell, a spokesperson for DHS.
DHS Is not involved in the lawsuit against Smith, but Powell Says there is no reason why more than one NORCE resident can not live together in a private home.
"It is no different for people with developmental disabilities," said Powell, "especially when they are sharing a private residence."
Neighbors who filed the lawsuit also declined an interview, but as Smith prepares his son for life after NORCE closes, he has this message for the neighbors.
"If they could walk a mile in my shoes, they would probably have a different attitude about it," said Smith.
Smith lives in Edmond, but says NORCE gives his son the best care. Smith hopes staying in Enid will give his son better access to his caregivers and other community resources he depends on.