Neighbors say no to plans for youth shelter
VIRGINIA -- There are plenty of people who say they're in favor of a new supportive housing project for homeless youths on the Iron Range. But the project, which supporters say would fill a desperate need in the community, is floundering after se...
VIRGINIA -- There are plenty of people who say they're in favor of a new supportive housing project for homeless youths on the Iron Range.
But the project, which supporters say would fill a desperate need in the community, is floundering after several months of controversy about where it should be built.
After several meetings of head butting, the two sides came together for a working session on Monday night to try to find a solution.
Organizers with the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency still hope to break ground on the proposed $2.4 million Youth Foyer project this spring and open by fall, executive director Harlan Tardy said. The 15-unit complex would have round-the-clock supervision and include educational and support services, AEOA officials said.
The agency served about 45 homeless youths in 2007, but the homeless youth population as a whole is hard to measure because they tend to move around a lot, sleeping in cars and "couch-hopping" from place to place, Tardy said.
Tardy said misconceptions about who the youths are and how they became homeless are helping to fuel the arguments against the proposed location.
"The vast majorities are our kids, they live here, in our communities," Tardy said. "They will not be these hardened criminals" that some have suggested would be attracted to the housing project.
Those who raised concerns about the project said they felt left out of the planning process and said the AEOA didn't plan strict enough rules for the facility.
"People are filling in their own blanks," said Steve Johnson of Virginia.
He has objections to the facility, but it isn't a "not-in-my-backyard-issue," he said.
"I'm supportive of the idea of plans to help homeless youth," said Johnson, a substitute teacher in the area who lives about two blocks from the proposed foyer.
But he feels the site is inappropriate because it's too far removed from services residents probably would need, including health care and services at Range Mental Health.
Others living near the proposed foyer say they support the project, but the location, a one-acre parcel abutting the city's Southside Park, is all wrong. Several people, including Judy Hafdahl, who once lived near the park, worried about a large population of young people living near the park and tennis courts.
Opponents have produced a 700-signature petition in support of the Southside Park -- though the foyer project isn't mentioned in the petition.
"That's clearly only being done to stop the foyer, and that's not a good enough reason," Tardy said. "It's trying to use the system to discriminate against fair housing."
Tardy said $1.3 million worth of IRS tax credits already secured for the one-acre foyer project can't be transferred to another site. And if those tax credits go, Tardy said, the project goes.