11 September 2008

Larry Winslow Lives in Alley

A while ago, I signed up to receive notices when sex offenders move into my neighborhood. It is not something that I am overly concerned about, but the emails are sometimes thought provoking. I noticed yesterday for example that Larry Winslow states that he resides in the alley behind the Drop Inn Center.

The Drop Inn Center does an important job with a limited budget, but pressure has been growing on them to change their operations. One change they have implemented is a 3-strikes policy, in which people repeatedly ticketed within 500' of the center will be refused services. They also have been turning away sex offenders. To me this is backwards. If Mr. Winlsow, who is a 58 year old homeless "tier III sex offender" cannot get a bed here, where could he possibly go? The whole point of the DIC is to be a place of last resort. If the DIC starts getting too picky about who can sleep on a mat, the result will be more people in the alleys and possibly frozen to death this winter. Is it getting to the point where we need another shelter, one that just takes the addicts and sex offenders?

Meanwhile, concerned people in cities like Chicago have been building beautiful, green homeless shelters. See article here and details here.

Read the whole article to see how nice the building is (it has a greenhouse, 2 gyms, library and sleeps 1,400) but also notice this part about the trouble they had expanding:
For years, Pacific Garden Mission had been pressured by the city Board of Education to vacate its men's facility on South State Street in the former Skid Row. As the neighborhood gentrified, the site was increasingly eyed for expansion by Jones College Prep, an adjacent public high school. Mission leaders were willing to relocate, but each time they pursued a site for a new shelter, a wave of NIMBYism swelled up from nearby residents.

... "The mission treated these people with great respect and dignity," ... "They are not referred to as indigents, but as overnight guests."

... set out to help find a new site. Ultimately, the combination of strained neighborhood politics and the mission's desire to build an ambitious multipurpose shelter led to the selection of a parcel south of the Loop at 14th and South Canal streets, surrounded by commuter rail tracks and parking lots for UPS trucks. ... The site was selected primarily because of its availability, adequate size, and reasonable proximity to the old site a mile away.
A quick anectode to end this post:
The weather being beautiful we walked down to Fountain Square last night. Since it was a school night we were just intending to walk past. But two booths were set up on the square selling barbecue, and and the square was lively with businessmen and people from the Baptist Convention, so we ordered some pork. I was short $2 for the meals, and the man said, "hey we're family, that's ok, just take them", which I really appreciated. While eating a very cute redheaded girl, maybe 6 years old came up and started playing with my daughter. They bonded so quickly that they were crying when we had to separate them 20 minutes later. The mother and father said maybe they would see us again downtown soon. In the small-talk as we were leaving, I asked where they lived, and they replied that they were staying at a homeless shelter. They said the one they were staying in had special quarters for families.


Anonymous said...

Very sad post. I hate to hear about families in that situation.

I fear the DIC days are numbered. When the new school opens across from it the public pressure to move will be huge. I'm not saying its right but all its opponents have to say is you can't have sex offenders within so many yards of a school and children. At that point their not really a shelter of last resort any more. It will be hard for the city to stand by them (if they even want to) if the shelter's location could be a threat to children.

I know not all homeless people are sex offenders but your hearing it here first. The sex offender angle is how the DIC will be run out of OTR.

VisuaLingual said...

But why would sex offenders not be allowed now? Is it a practice run for when the school opens?

Anonymous said...

Sex offenders are not allowed within a certain distance of any school. Don't forget Washington Park School WAS within the range. It is not a choice of DIC, but state law.

I think we should support DIC and community. Renovate green, build gyms for all of to go. Don't separate or we will never come close to the real goal: ending homelessness.

Why don't we focus on building state of the art HOUSING! So that we don't end up like Chicago with a 1,400 bed shelter!

Anonymous said...

We have a lot of vacant housing and more gets demolished every day. More houses is not the solution to ending homelessness. Getting money to pay the rent is.

VisuaLingual said...

But, there isn't currently an open school in the immediate area. Anyway, these people need to be somewhere; not everyone can adopt a NIMBY attitude [although I think some communities have come close to driving out their "undesirables" -- I would just hope that we don't join them].

Anonymous said...

There are many vacant buildings, but they are not being renovated for the most part so that low-income, especially homeless, individual, males can afford them.

Maybe money spent on "state of the art shelter" should be funneled into low income housing.

fyi..there is a school. A Christian School at the former WLWT building.