TCS | Indy Week

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Re: “Chapel Hill NIMBYs oppose new homeless shelter site

The proposed location is a problem. It is irresponsible at best, and at worst dangerous, to place the shelter in such close proximity to Chapel Hills largest and busiest park, more than a dozen residential neighborhoods, and other at-risk populations such the Freedom House recovery center, HomeStart Womens and Childrens Shelter, and the Rainbow Heights Neighborhood.

I agree that many homeless people give the address of the current shelter (100 W. Rosemary Street) or the intersection of Rosemary and Columbia when charged by the police. In fact this year alone, that location has been cited by 230 individuals who have been charged 320 times by the Chapel Hill Police Department. However, that does not change the fact that so far this year there have been 39 police reports filed for issues directly at 100 W Rosemary Street and 25 arrests made AT that same address.

The proposed location is particularly disturbing where it concerns registered sex offenders. The IFC states that sex offenders will not be allowed at the new shelter because it will be within 1000 feet of a child care center. This heightens my concern for the safety of our towns children. What will happen to homeless sex offenders when the shelter turns them away? They will go to Homestead park where hundreds of children play daily. It would make better sense to choose a suitable location that is not within 1000 feet of a child care center.

While homelessness can affect any of us due to illness, divorce, or job loss, many of the homeless population are proven substance abusers, severely mentally ill, and/or have served time in the criminal justice system. These conditions can cloud their reasoning and ability to function normally and safely in public areas, let alone in a residential neighborhood. In fact, in Orange County 37% of the homeless have chronic substance abuse issues, 23% are severely mentally ill, and 30% have been released from the criminal justice system (according to the Orange County Ten Year Plan To End Chronic Homelessness.) I seriously doubt that 37% of my existing neighbors with shelter over their heads have chronic substance abuse issues. I am not attempting to create a boogey man, rather I am looking at the facts and attempting to keep our children and our community as safe as possible.

I agree with the mission of the IFC mens shelter and support the service they provide for these men. However, I cannot support the current proposed location for the new shelter. While there were no alternative sites offered, I personally have never seen a list of proposed sites. I agree with the councils comments that hard evidence needs to be presented. This needs to be done by a neutral/disinterested party, not by the IFC nor the impacted neighborhoods. It is essential that the town develop objective criteria for what constitutes both a good location and a bad location. This should be done under section 3.2 of the Comprehensive Plan for Chapel Hill: Community Character--Strategies and Action for Neighborhood Protection which states Plans should be developed as a collaborative process between Town (Council and Staff) and local residents. Residents will assist in assessing neighborhood strengths and needs, articulating a positive vision for the future, and developing an action plan to address local issues." After the objective shelter location criteria are developed, then a list of potential locations for consideration can be created which can be evaluated according to the objective criteria. And lastly, before approved, an impact study needs to be performed for any proposed location with regards to the placement of a shelter in that area.

Posted by TCS on 10/21/2009 at 2:47 PM

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