Gateway Homes to open living center in James City County

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4933 Westmoreland Drive is Gateway Homes of Greater Richmond's newest living center. (Andrew Harris/WYDaily.)

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Gateway Homes of Greater Richmond will be opening a living center in James City County for people being treated for mental illnesses.

The living center is located at 4933 Westmoreland Drive. Gateway had previously announced a living center on Woodmere Drive that has caused resistance from surrounding neighborhoods. Both houses are currently unoccupied, but both will house up to eight residents and two full-time staff supervisors.

According to Gateway’s mission statement, their homes provide “a transitional residential treatment program for adults with mental illness who are striving for independence.”

Gateway hosted an open house at both properties Friday afternoon. Residents of Westmoreland Drive visited to tour the home and speak with Gateway’s Executive and Clinical Director Lynda Hyatt.  Several asked questions and expressed their concerns about the home's residents, but none were willing to speak on record.

According to Hyatt, they were mostly concerned with the safety of the neighborhood, and their property values were also a consideration. She spent much of the open house assuaging neighbors’ concerns.

“We just tell them the facts,” said Hyatt. “There are so many stereotypes about people with mental illness. The media always associates it with violence.”

“Being mentally ill is not a crime,” added Hyatt.

Gateway employee Ella Willingham, who will work at the living center on Westmoreland Drive, echoed Hyatt’s sentiments.

“We definitely want to reassure our neighbors that we’ll be good neighbors.”

The Richmond-based company operates a similar home in Fairfax, and according to Hyatt, the home has received only one complaint from neighbors in its six-year existence.

When the company looked into the complaint, a trespassing incident, it was discovered that the person suspected of trespassing into a nearby yard was not a resident of Gateway. The neighbor who first reported the incident formally apologized to Gateway, Hyatt said.