Sex predators among list of concerns about potential homeless intake center

NOW: Sex predators among list of concerns about potential homeless intake center

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- There’s a new concern for sex offenders prowling Northwest side neighborhoods as talks about a potential homeless intake center continue.

After the city announced the plans for the project off Bendix Drive, public criticism put a pause on progress late last week.

The owners of Tom’s Car Care Center and other businesses nearby are wondering what the future of their business may look like if the intake center is built next door.

They’re concerned about the low barrier approach, which means residents there could do drugs, leave the facility, and venture towards the bus stop that’s directly across from their storefront.

“If this place moves in with all the crime and everything we already see, it’s terrible,” says Johnathan, the son of Tom’s Car Care Center’s owner.

Johnathan hopes the customers of his family’s 35+ year business won’t turn their backs on them but believes it’s a possibility if a homeless intake center next door brings crime with it.

“We talk about a $14 million new facility being built here with no rules, I think that’s our worry,” says Amy Drake, County Councilwoman.

The city’s plan to build the intake center has faced criticism from county officials, neighbors, and businesses near the empty plot who say they were never approached about the decision before it was made, let alone given an opportunity to comment.

“We have never been talked to about other locations,” Joe Thomas says, County Councilman that represents the district. “It’s only been seven days since we were even notified about the homeless center’s location.”

They worry that the city’s hopes to replace Motels4Now with the low barrier center will mean more crime in their typically quiet neighborhood, especially when it comes to the presence of sex offenders just minutes from a daycare and elementary school.

According to the Indiana Sex Offender Registry, 6 men use the Motels4Now location as their address.

Responding to concerns brought to light Tuesday, South Bend Mayor James Mueller says:

“These bad-faith political attacks on homeless service providers and our most vulnerable residents are a new low from county republicans. This right-wing witch hunt against Motels4Now does not reflect South Bend values and is a distraction from finding real solutions. South Bend values people over politics, compassion over cruelty, and proven solutions like housing first over extremism.”

One woman who currently lives across the street from Motels4Now dealt with an attempted break-in over the summer from two of its residents.

“The break ins, my neighbor’s car was broken into three times in a six-week period, they’re not even reporting it. It’s becoming normal,” says Tina Wilson, who lives across from the shelter.

County leaders argue a better location for the intake center would be downtown where the homeless can be closer to essential services.

“The services are downtown; the services aren’t here,” Councilman Thomas says. “They’re not here on the west side of South Bend.”

The city is holding a public hearing for residents to voice concerns and ask questions about the intake center.

It will be on Thursday at 6pm at the Beacon Resource Center off Lincolnway.

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