Homeless apartment project receives neutral recommendation from planning commission

NOW: Homeless apartment project receives neutral recommendation from planning commission

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- St. Joseph County planning commissioners could not reach a decision Tuesday on whether or not a vacant lot on West Washington Street should be rezoned to allow for a supportive housing facility to be built.

The South Bend Heritage Foundation presented their plans to build another supportive housing development for the chronically homeless on to commissioners before the public shared their concerns.

After 10 community members spoke out against the development and only one spoke in favor of it, planning commissioners decided to send the rezoning decision to the common council with a neutral or no recommendation.

Many neighbors shared their concerns that the new housing development would be similar to the seemingly problem-prone Oliver Apartments.

“The example that the Oliver Apartments have showed us is not good,” Alfonso Mack said, a concerned neighbor. “I think that they should really take back some of the ideas that they have before they try to move forward. Start speaking to some of the neighbors, speak to the community.”

Marco Mariani with the South Bend Heritage Foundation explained Tuesday that these apartments will be different from the Oliver Apartments. The plan for the 22-unit supportive housing on West Washington Street includes 24 hour security, a resident assistant, individual apartments and supportive services for the chronically homeless.

The screening process for residents will also be a little bit different, meaning the apartments won’t just be available to the most vulnerable of the homeless population.

“For Oliver, we will really looking to house the most vulnerable in the community, those that had mental health disorders, substance abuse disorders, this new development criteria is different in that screening in criteria is not present. ”

Mariani also explained that residents for this new development would not be required to be housed, but rather that they are choosing to be housed to make a change in their lives. But that still doesn’t have residents of the neighborhood convinced.

“I think that permanent supportive housing is a terrific idea, it’s something we need to do, but Oliver is not working well as permanent supportive housing and we do not believe in the neighborhood that this will function either,” Alan Larkin said, who lives near proposed development.

Larkin called the response from the planning commissioners to make no recommendation on the zoning a thoughtful one.

The decision for now rezoning lies in the hands of the South Bend Common Council. If it’s approved, the developers hope to open the housing facility in the summer of 2021.

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