PHOENIX — In February 2021, Jeremiah Grandstaff was placed by the Department of Child Safety in an apartment-style complex off Mountain View Road in north Phoenix.
It was an independent living community for youths aged 16 to 20 operated by North Star Independent Living Services. Its website touts its facilities as "a safe place to call home" and a "reliable place to develop life skills."
In less than 72 hours, Grandstaff would experience his first crime at the facility.
“All I heard was just people yelling and stuff. And I heard the gunshots," Grandstaff said. “If I can remember correctly, it was a drive-by. So the people that were shooting didn’t live on North Star, but they're targeting North Star residents.”
Grandstaff says he never felt safe.
“There was absolutely no security," he said.
DCS contracts with North Star to house teens and young adults at North Star's five facilities around the state. The complex off Mountain View houses up to 46 residents.
Grandstaff says he saw drug use by some of the other residents daily and he would report that among other crimes and rule violations.
“Some of the stuff that I would tell them was like serious stuff. Like someone had a gun or they had drugs or something like that in my room," Grandstaff said.
"And some of the stuff they would say is they would report it, okay I'll take care of it, it's not your business, you don't need to worry about it. And then it never clearly got taken care of because it's still happening to this day.”
The latest tragedy is a deadly shooting on September 1 when Phoenix PD says one resident shot and killed another.
“It is not a safe environment. It is uncontrollable," Grandstaff said.
Grandstaff was eventually moved to another North Star home off of Crocus Drive after he said he was shot in the face with a BB gun.
He ultimately moved out on his own earlier this year after turning 18 and he now works with DCS.
“I actually give credit to North Star believe it or not. They are the reason I am such an advocate because of how horrible the program is," he said.
Grandstaff questions whether North Star was reporting every incident at its facilities to DCS as required. He believes North Star should no longer have a license.
A North Star spokesperson has declined interview requests but released the following statement Thursday:
"Every incident is reported as required by law. He’s also incorrect on our safety efforts. The safety of the young adults and teenagers in our care is our top priority and we continue to do all we can within the rules. If a resident breaks the rules, our recourse is to report the incident to the case manager at AZ DCS. We cannot discipline, discharge or remove a child from the site without instruction from the case manager. Further, after an incident in 2021 we did upgrade campus lighting, added additional cameras, and followed other measures which were permitted by regulatory and DCS rules."
DCS has declined 12News' interview requests.
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