Southeast side neighbors to hold emergency homelessness meeting on Tuesday
SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- An emergency meeting is set for Tusesday at 6 p.m. to discuss the placement of South Bend’s latest attemp t to curb city homelessness.
Neighbors on the city’s south side have spoken against the intake center proposal, because of it’s proposed locations on Michigan Street or in Ignition Park.
Sharon McBride, District 3 Common Councilwoman, wrote a letter to the city and member of the Working Group on Chronic Homeless, who proposed the intake center in 2017, inviting them to the meeting at Broadway Christian Parish United Methodist Church.
She wrote the following message:
“The SOAR association, along with area residents requested an emergency meeting to discuss the Homelessness situation. They are requesting as previously stated that a committee is formed to work with Administration so that healthy dialogue and viable alternatives are reviewed. Specifically, they are asking for inclusion and diversity. They are also requesting information regarding city owned vacant lots throughout the city. The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 21st at 6 p.m. at Broadway Parish.
I know that this schedule may conflict with other meetings, however, the need for discussion is imminent. Please let me know if you would like to attend.
James Mueller, executive director of the city’s department of community investment, accepted the invitation and wrote the city wants to form an inclusive group on working to find the best location for the center.
He wrote the following message:
Thanks for extending the invitation. We’re happy to attend, and as I mentioned on Monday, are open to forming an inclusive group to work on finding the best location for an intake center. I think we need to manage expectations, however, on where an intake center can be effective and a good use of public resources. I was not on the working group that issued the report, but I understand that they looked at national best practices and had a number of experts and homeless service providers in the group, which concluded that proximity to existing services is the top criteria for locating the intake center to maximize use and participation. This is intuitive because the chronic homeless face a number of barriers to becoming sheltered, and unlike permanent supportive housing that can be scattered and shared across the community, the intake center needs to be as convenient as possible and meet them where they are – near existing services. Because this concept has come under question, we’ll confirm with service providers and experts whether or not this is make or break for an intake center to be successful. We’ll wait on this answer before pulling together a map of city-owned properties that don’t have active plans.
In addition to effectiveness and being a good use of public resources, we also want to make sure that the intake center will make both the neighborhood that it is in and the city better off. If we can’t find a neighborhood that believes providing shelter for the existing unsheltered would make the neighborhood and city better, we’ll stop pursuing the intake center and turn our focus to making scattered-site permanent supportive housing work without one. That would be a disappointing outcome as I believe the working group reasonably concluded that sheltering the existing unsheltered in the neighborhood would improve conditions in the near term and help to deconcentrate homeless individuals by catalyzing their movement from the streets to permanent supportive housing scattered across the community.
We have some ideas on a group to help evaluate potential sites that we’d like to discuss with you and others that are interested. Please let me know when would be a good time to touch base on this.
Last Monday, south side residents told common council members they did not want the center on their side of town because of the present homeless population.
“You can’t tell me this is not a problem,” said one man.
Another woman told the council that the south side has become a ‘waste land.’ While Reverend Charles Zawistowski, with the Oliver Gateway Neighborhood Association, said the city should take their time and correctly find a solution.
“If this is one of the best solutions and we can see the shortcomings, that concerns me with these pods,” he said. “I just see them as potentially a disaster waiting to happen.”
The pods are currently on Michigan Street near Sample Street. They were donated to the city from Ivy Tech Community College.
In a report created by the Working Group on Chronic Homelessness, an intake center was recommended in order to move homeless people as quickly as quickly as possible into permanent housing.
“2. Intake Center: The intake center will serve as the single-entry point into the system of care, linking chronically homeless individuals with shelter, case management, and appropriate community services. The intake center will function as a no-demand shelter for clients prior to their transition to permanent housing: clients will not be required to pass drug screens or breathalyzers, nor required to engage in services in order to secure shelter space. The goal of the intake center is to move clients into appropriate permanent housing as quickly as possible, as determined by case managers and their clients. If housing is not immediately available, clients will be allowed to remain in the Intake Center until housing becomes available.
• Recommended Specifications: • Approximately 30 separate rooms, 25 for single adults and 5 for couples • 24-hour front desk/security staffing • Full-time Intake Case Manager • Projected Budget: • Projected Capital Cost: $1.6 million, excluding site acquisition • Projected Annual Operating Cost: $261,656 • Intake Center Total, Y1: $1,861,656, excluding site acquisition”
Rev. Zawistowski said the idea that homeless people have to be placed in one part of town will hurt that part of town. He also said the city should provide more support for wraparound services to outlets that are already present such as the Oliver Apartments, Hope Ministries and the Center for the Homeless.
“We’ve been promised wraparound services like for example supported housing for the homeless,” he said. “There are not wraparound services.”
Rev. Zawistowski said he has tried to help the homeless on an individual basis. In the spring, he said he tried to help a man find employment and housing, but failed due to the man being accustomed to living on his terms for so long.
“If I can’t even help one person, how are we as a community going to help a whole group of people,” he said. “We’re not meeting their individual needs.”
District 6 Councilman Oliver Davis Jr. said the city’s proposed plan to put the intake center in the sixth district is too much. He agrees with his constituents and the city that there should be a group, which includes homeless people, to come up with the solution.
“We’re often making decisions for them,” he said. “They have ideas too and we have to work through those things together.”