Debate Over Harvey County Homeless Shelter Moving Into Neighborhood

By: Parrish Alleman Email
By: Parrish Alleman Email

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Harvey County Homeless Shelter is ready to build a new shelter in a nearby neighborhood, but the people who live there don't want the shelter to move in next door.

This is an update to a story we first told you about last summer. Since then, the city of Newton has spent the last year trying to come up with a solution.

The Harvey County Homeless Shelter is ready to move out of their basement. They've owned a piece of land for about a year that they want to build a new shelter on, but can't do anything with it right now. That's because while they say the location is perfect for them, the people who live in the nearby neighborhood have concerns.

"Safety, yes. There's a lot of children in the neighborhood, joggers that kind of thing, kids going to school,” nearby neighbor Rita Miller said.

The two groups want two very different things. So last summer, the city asked the city's planning committee to help them find some common ground.

"When the issue first came up, it was about what regulations we have, let's talk about the zoning for group homes,” Chairman for the planning committee Carl Harris said.

Basically, the City of Newton had no regulations for group homes like where they could be built, or policies on how they can operate. The committee spent the next year researching, meeting and hearing from the public.

"It's been a roller coaster,” Miller said.

"We've really taken a stance of just being patient," Harvey County Homeless Shelter director James Wilson said.

The end result is a proposed ordinance that would require a special permit for group homes to be built in some areas, like a neighborhood.

If passed, it would most likely mean the shelter could build in the neighborhood, but they'd be subject to the city's rules and regulations.

"We can live with the regulations that they've placed in there because most of the regulations they're looking for are things we already have in place,” Wilson said.

"If it comes in I guess we have to make the best of it but we're not happy about it,” Miller said.

City commissioners will vote on the issue next Tuesday but even if they adopt it completely as is, the shelter would then have to apply for a special use permit.

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