A few neighbors were left off the invitation list for the Country Club Apartments’ community-style barbeque Sept. 29.
Although the fence for the 400-bed Trenton Psychiatric Hospital is in the apartments’ backyard, patients, including the five who escaped this year, do not swing by very often.
“If they get out, they leave,” Jackie Schmidt, junior special education and English major said. “They don’t stay around here.”
Despite noises, the notices on their doors about escapees and some window views of psychiatric patients that remind residents of movie characters, the hospital’s presence and the apartments’ seclusion from the rest of campus do not prevent most residents from enjoying their lives on their own.
“Sure, we may have schizos on the loose, but Country Club apartments is still THE place to be,” according to an announcement on the 21-member “Country Club rocks my world ’05 – 06” facebook.com group page.
At the barbeque, 15 residents milled about a picnic table stocked with buns, ketchup, chips, water and cookies while burgers and hot dogs sizzled on a grill.
Plastic toys lay in a pile in the grass near the parking lot, where a football spun through the air and one resident swung at a ball with a plastic bat. Around the corner of the apartment building, four students played badminton.
“It’s just a group of us (in the apartments) by ourselves, so we have to be all friendly,”Alison Ford, junior elementary education major said.
Country Club residents hang out and watch movies together, go shopping and played a football game the night before the barbeque. According to the facebook.com group description, residents know they’re from the community if “Multiple cop cars outside don’t even phase you anymore,” “You’ve been to Crystal Diner,” and “You have a separate section on your buddy list just for neighbors.”
Being placed off-campus has had its ups and downs for different residents. Located about three miles from the College’s entrance, the apartments each have a living room, dining room, kitchen and single and double bedrooms for four to six people.
Ford did not make the housing lottery, but got on the waiting list. Although she wanted to be in a townhouse with her roommate from the past two years, she said she enjoys the neighborhood.
Joe Gulotta, junior general business major, said he also wanted to live in the townhouses, but likes having more room to stretch out.
Caitlin Day, senior English and women’s and gender studies major, however, said she would rather be on campus.
“Tonight (will) be my seventh night sleeping here,” Day said. “I’m never here.”
She said the apartments would be better if her friends were close by. Still, she enjoys only having to pay for $200 of Sodexho food (the minimum meal plan required) and having her own full kitchen and George Foreman grill.
For security, the apartments are equipped with alarms, and police cars patrol the area at night. Ford said at least three people came to her door to show her how to use the security system after the patients escaped.
Some residents are cautious, closing their windows and traveling together at night.
“We only go in groups in the backyard,” Ford said. When bushes rustle as maintenance workers are trimming them or when the two resident groundhogs walk around, she said students may initially mistake them for patients.
Sometimes they hear the hospital announcements, conversations and arguments between patients and nurses.
According to Gulotta, he heard one patient say she was queen of the universe.
“I have nightmares that they’re staring at me,” Amanda Thompson, junior early childhood education major, said.
“You see them out back staring up into the skies with their hands raised,” Damein Beaton, associate residence director for Country Club Apartments, said. “Although that occurs, it is still a peaceful, harmonious environment.”
Others are not bothered by the hospital.
“I didn’t really mind (when I learned the hospital was nearby),” Gulotta said. “My roommates are kind of crazy anyway, so it made it feel like home.”