Newspaper article

Homeless Shelter Gets City Support, despite Complaints from Minneapolis Neighbors

Newspaper article

Homeless Shelter Gets City Support, despite Complaints from Minneapolis Neighbors

Article excerpt

The neighbors came to City Hall ready to prove their point, armed with pictures of public urination, drug activity, overflowing trash bins and stories of stolen lawn furniture.

They did not want another winter of living next door to a homeless shelter.

After hearing, though, from opponents and supporters of the overnight shelter, members of the City Council's Zoning and Planning Committee decided that leaving the homeless on the streets poses a bigger threat than opening a shelter in a church.

"These 40 beds will seem like nothing when a tent city pops up," said Council Member Lisa Goodman, who shared her opinion that nobody wants to sleep on a mat on the floor. "There would be bigger problems if we didn't have shelters."

For the last two winters, River of Life Lutheran Church in North Minneapolis -- in conjunction with St. Stephen's Human Services -- has operated a homeless shelter for men. The shelter operates from November through April.

"It's not comfortable when people are urinating in front of you and sucking on their bottles," said Susan Breedlove, a longtime neighborhood resident, who accused church leaders of being unresponsive to complaints.

"We haven't been a good enough neighbor," said Jeff Skrenes who serves as president of the church council.

He told City Council members that the church is adding additional outdoor lighting, two cameras and a digital video recorder to improve the situation. The congregation also has arranged for the removal of extra trash bins and will have trash picked up twice a week.

An updated management plan for the shelter requires the hiring of off-duty police officers, as in the past. Shelter officials also promised not to admit late-night arrivals, unless they are brought to the shelter in a police vehicle.

"The guests are very kind, meek people. Very humble people," said Damien Jones, who works at the shelter. He, too, came with photos. One showed a man unfolding a sheet as he prepared his floor mat for the night.

The man works everyday as a chef and sleeps at the shelter during the winter, Jones explained. Like many, that client signs up for another night at the shelter before leaving in the morning. …

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