The Town of Union board members voted unanimously against allowing Southern Door Community Church open its doors to the county’s homeless.
In October, church members approached the board for permission to convert space in the church into rooms for homeless women and children, and offer them a 90-day program to help them find work and shelter and learn the skills to keep a house and stay employed.
The decision was tabled until the town’s February meeting.
“There’re several reasons [we voted against the project],” said Union town supervisor Cletus Fontaine. “The biggest reason is the surrounding property values [could] go down when you have an institution alongside a residential area.”
Fontaine said the board also thought the shelter would be “out of character” for the area, and the public was vocally opposed to the project.
Paul Peterson, pastor of Southern Door Community Church, estimated that 50 people attended the meeting, most opposed to the shelter. He held an informational meeting at the church in November to address public concern, where he was met with people worried about crime, angry boyfriends and flooding Southern Door School with homeless children. Those opinions hadn’t changed by February.
“We really tried to answer all of their questions, but at the end of the day it just appears that the comments that were made about ‘those kinds’ of people were at the root of all of the excuses that were used,” Peterson said.
Southern Door Community Church members could propose the project again if they address the board’s major concerns – something Peterson said isn’t so easy.
“I came away very disappointed in our township and the decision that the board made,” Peterson said. “It’s just not who we are, at least it’s not who we should be.”
Read more about the shelter here: Southern Door Community Church Seeks to Build a Homeless Shelter