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Report shows possible contamination at site selected to house chronically homeless

NOW: Report shows possible contamination at site selected to house chronically homeless

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A report from 2004 showed contamination at the location for a proposed permanent supportive housing project for the chronically homeless on West Washington Avenue in South Bend. 

In a report made by Mishawaka-based consultant Grauvogel and Associates concluded its “very likely there is a low-level contamination under the property.” The report made the following conclusions:

“That statement is a concern obviously,” said Marty Mechtenberg, president of the Near West Side Neighborhood Association. “We don’t want to be in a situation where we’re putting the most vulnerable people at the most dangerous sites.”

The site housed Oil Express, Inc. up until it closed in 2000. According to the following report done by Safety and Environmental Resources, Inc. in 2000, the site had underground storage tanks at 1520 West Washington Avenue. 

However, the report shows no reported spills from the site in 2000.

The City of South Bend sent the following statement to ABC 57 News about the environmental concerns:

"The City and South Bend Heritage have had various meetings with neighbors, churches, and businesses near the proposed permanent supportive housing site, including discussing topics of safety and quality of life. Environmental assessments of the site were completed several years ago by the City. The buildings and other items associated with the previous business operations were removed and the site was readied for future development per the assessments. As part of the redevelopment of the site, a geo-technical report and other assessments required for construction would be completed by the developers to inform the new site development.”

The City of South Bend and South Bend Heritage Foundation is planning to build a 22-unit housing facility for the chronically homeless. The site has already been criticized by neighbors who fear the proposed facility will mirror the seemingly problem-prone Oliver Apartments, which in its first 10 months police were called nearly 160 times. 

Last Tuesday, the St. Joseph County Area Plan Commission could not decide if they wanted to rezone the lot to move the project forward. On Monday, the South Bend Common Council will make the final decision. 

In a statement to ABC 57 News, Dr. Oliver Davis Jr., chair of the SBCC Zoning and Annexation committee, he said: 

“As the chair of the Zoning & Annexation Committee, I have deep concerns regarding this proposed development at 1500 W. Washington. The site’s past history of environmental problems, including the adjacent properties, causes me great concern. I truly trust that Mayor Buttigieg would rethink this proposed development and not house people at this site. Furthermore, Mayor Buttigieg should initiate the environmental clean up of this entire area of South Bend prior to leaving office this year.”

On Sunday night, Davis shared a list of past and current actions made by the Common Council and Re-Development Commission at 1510-1520 West Washington Avenue.


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Silverlining 24 days ago
ABC 57- I know that you frequently speak about the Oliver Street Apartments and the "high" number of police calls that respond to that area. Have you looked deeper into the issue, other than the apartment complex? We are talking about Chronically homeless individuals who, prior to moving into the apartments, were having police and ambulances called to them countless times. It is easy to fixate on a surface level problem (i.e. police responding), but it takes actual digging to get to the root of the topic (i.e. Chronic homelessness). Perhaps contacting Utah's housing director, Johnathan Hardy. Asking specific questions would be, "Has the housing first initiative reduced the costs to the city's emergency sector? Has police responses gone down over time when the housing first buildings were constructed? What has been the cost savings measure to the "Housing First" initiative?" This is a starting point to get to the deeper issues that has been addressing the homelessness in our communities.

On a side-note, please stop interviewing the Five for the Homeless, Paul Shafer, due to his lack of insight into the problem. Contacting local agencies that have been working extensively with the homeless would be better suited for factual and unbiased feedback (i.e. Center for the Homeless; Hope Ministries; Miller's Vets, Oaklawn).
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