Why Councilman Larry Carr opposes homeless shelter proposed for his Meadowview district
Who would have thought a serious proposal to locate a low-barrier homeless shelter adjacent to the Samuel and Bonnie Pannell Community Center, community swimming pool and River Cats Independence Field in Meadowview would come forward? Really? Yes, really – and I vehemently oppose it.
The Pannell Center is the crown jewel of Meadowview, in as pristine condition as the day it was dedicated. It was built with quality and a size that could service the entire region, and it was intended to attract competitive events, encourage youth development and promote the creation of role models for local children and families.
The center, pool and Independence Field host daily events that are attended by thousands each year, including children who walk from their neighboring homes to the venues. Additionally, a new charter school has been approved for construction right across the street. Despite all of this, Mayor Darrell Steinberg is proposing a 100-bed, low-barrier shelter next to these facilities in the heart of Meadowview.
A low-barrier shelter would target homeless individuals with drug addiction, sexual abuse and exploitations issues, untreated mental health disorders and pets. The shelter would not screen potential residents for past criminal offenses or restrict their ability to come and go as they please. It would also enforce a strict 9 p.m. curfew, after which any stragglers would be locked out for the night and sleep wherever is convenient: In front of the Pannell Center, the bleachers at Independence Field, or perhaps in the surrounding neighborhoods.
There is no doubt we must find solutions for homelessness. However, I believe that the lot next to the Pannell Center is not a rational location for a homeless shelter. Can you imagine sending your child to the enriching youth programs at the Pannell Center with the knowledge that they may encounter residents of a low-barrier homeless shelter?
We learned valuable lessons from the nearly-$400,000 per month shelter experiment onRailroad Avenue in Del Paso Heights
. For one, low-barrier shelters become a magnet for drug dealers whose customers reside in the shelters, and dealers will run a brisk business set up right next door.
The difference between Railroad Avenue and the proposed Pannell Center site is that instead of being in an industrial area surrounded by warehouses, this one is in the middle of a neighborhood where four family-occupied apartment communities are less than 100 yards away.
To bring this proposal to fruition, five members of the City Council must vote for it over my objection. A previous public agreement among the councilmembers stated that homeless shelters and cannabis enterprises would not be forced on a district against its representative’s wishes.
Even though the agreement has not been violated yet, I cannot solely rely on this promise. Soon I will ask the City Council for a commonsense ordinance to be drafted to prohibit homeless shelters within 1,000 feet of residences, schools, playgrounds and community centers.
I have also asked our state assemblyman, Jim Cooper, to investigate the possibility of state legislation in this regard.
Who would have thought this proposal would even come to a vote? Not myself, the previous councilmembers for District 8, Sam or Bonnie Pannell, nor the children or residents of Meadowview. If you are concerned about this proposal, please let the mayor and your councilmembers know.