By Josh Jordan
Esther Flores, the founder of 1DivineLine2Health, was seeking a letter of support from the Greater Hilltop Area Commission for her new planned drop-in center at 2633 Sullivant Ave.
The request was discussed at the April 2 commissioners meeting, held at the Hilltop Library.
The center would be a safe house and provide food and shelter for women in need, whether they are homeless, drug addicts, victims of human trafficking or prostitutes.
“My main concern is that there is an elementary school about 100 yards to the east,” said Jay McCallister, commission chairman. “I’m not sure about the location. Also, to the west, everything is residential.”
Others in the room began speaking about their objections to the house moving into their neighborhood.
Flores explained that the drop-in center would only be open 40 hours per week and that those in need could only stay at the center for up to a year if necessary.
“I know that people are afraid, but what about the women that are pregnant and have no access to recovery,” said Flores. “This is what we’re all about. If you want to make a difference, sometimes we have to look at the situation and not treat them like garbage.”
The house is not a rehabilitation center, but the facility would partner with groups who will help those in need. However, it is up to each individual if they participate.
“More addicts will be coming into our neighborhood because it is free here,” said Marilyn Wilson, a resident who lives near the proposed site.
“It seems like I am always here to advocate against people coming into our neighborhood and deciding what we need in our neighborhood. Nobody has asked the neighbors. None of us have been asked what our opinion is of this place,” said Lisa Boggs, a Hilltop community resident and activist. “There’s already a safehouse over there and it’s increased the prostitution in our area.”
The commissioners expressed concern about how the drop-in center would be operated.
“We do need to know more plans. We need a clear understanding of what your program is going to do and how is it going to do it,” said commissioner Zerqa Abid. “I think nothing can work in any community unless both neighbors and the service providers are on the same page.”
The commission went on to vote down the request of support with 13 against and one abstaining, but the conversation was not done.
“I would really love to work with all of you to set up a couple meetings so that we can talk about this issue and come up with a solution that is collaborative and figure this out together,” said commissioner Nikol Madison. “I would love to take this on as my project for the rest of the year to work with the residents and the work that Ms. Flores is doing so that we can solve this issue together.”
All parties agreed.