Nearby group home makes Lakeland neighbors uneasy

- People who live on East Poinsettia Street say residents of a group home are turning their neighborhood upside down.

"We have heard windows breaking. I have seen people out puking in the bushes. Our neighbor told us there was a naked man running towards our house," said Jennifer Bandlow. Bandlow lives right across the street from the home with her infant.

A few houses down, Louis Tarango is pretty unsettled as well. He was grilling the other night with his 9-year-old son when a resident of the home wandered his way. What the guy said really took Tarango by surprise.

"'I have a knife, I have a gun, and I am going to kill both of you,'" he recounted.

Tarango quickly sent his son inside. When his wife came out to see what was going on, the man was walking away.

"He turns around and looks at us both and says, 'I am gonna kill all of you,'" Tarango recalled.

Lakeland police say since the group home opened a little more than a year ago, they have gotten calls for help almost three dozen times, 10 of which were related to mental health issues. Three were attempted suicides.

Sgt. Gary Gross says all the calls have been considered non-violent.

"But it is keeping us busy, and people concerned in the neighborhood," he told FOX 13.

For neighbors, the situation seems to have come out of nowhere. The law does not say neighbors have to be notified when a group home is opening nearby.

Neighbors we spoke with say they understand that group homes have to go somewhere, but after what they have been going through they are starting to think there might be a better place for this one if things don't improve quickly.

"I think they need to find another location," said Tarango.

On Tuesday, FOX 13 tried to talk to the company that manages the home, Mentor Florida. We left several phone messages and did not get a callback. We emailed and even called a crisis line without success.

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