Homeless advocates addressed Franklin Township officials about concerns regarding an overflow homeless shelter at 511 Industrial Mile.
“There is information flowing everywhere,” Trustee chair Timothy Guyton said.
Guyton said no decision would be made in support or against the shelter at the Oct. 11 Franklin Township trustee meeting.
“This is for educational purposes for our police, fire and us,” Guyton said.
Art Helldoerfer, executive director of housing initiatives for the YMCA of Central Ohio, said his agency has provided winter housing for about a decade. This would mark the second year an overflow shelter has been on the Westside.
“Last year our site was on Mound Street,” Helldoerfer said, the former site of the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.
The sale of the Mound Street location spurred a 10-month search for another location that could provide adequate fire safety systems and space to accommodate 130 men and 60 women.
Helldoerfer said he and homeless advocates worked with the Industrial Mile property owner for the past six to eight weeks and had conversations with its neighbors.
“The trustees only knew about this, this past week,” Trustee vice chair Don Cook said. “You’re trying to fast-track this.”
“We’re bringing them in from the cold, and providing a place for them to sleep,” Helldoerfer said. “We certainly don’t want anybody to freeze to death just because they’re homeless.”
While the building’s zoning allows for overflow use, it still must be approved by township officials.
“We’ve got a rough plan (for the building),” Township Fire Chief Richard Howard said. “You’ve got to have that stuff before we sign off.”
The proximity of the overflow shelter to Creative Child Care, a day care facility that underwent over $1 million in improvements, is also a concern.
“Some of our parents have concerns and anxiety over this,” Creative Child Care president Todd Waldron said, citing inappropriate behaviors, such as intoxication in the neighborhood.
“That’s not what this community needs,” Waldron said.
Helldoerfer and Michelle Heritage of the Community Shelter Board said individuals are given an initial security check and a second background check is performed on site.
The shelter’s hours of operation would be from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and both police and private security would be present, Helldoerfer said.
“Our buildings are undergoing a massive rehabilitation (of over $1 million),” said David Smith, property manager of Metro West Apartments.
Smith said, in the past, homeless individuals allegedly broke into buildings, started fires to keep warm and the building burnt down.
“This is just not a good mix for us,” Smith said. “I have all the sympathies in the world for the homeless, but I implore you, please find another location.”
Heritage said the property lease has been signed for a three-year term. Both Heritage and Helldoefer said a good-neighbor agreement would be implemented.
“We need to hear your concerns, and those are very valid,” Heritage said.
“If there are issues, we will address them as we go,” Helldoefer said.