Ky. Voices: Neighborhoods have real concerns about homeless

December 2, 2013 

William Andrews is a resident of Lexington's Meadowthorpe neighborhood.

  • At issue: Nov. 17 commentary by David Christiansen, "Lexington leaders must face mob, protect homeless"

While I appreciate David Christiansen's call for strong and thoughtful leadership to confront the issue of homelessness in Lexington, I am disappointed by his unfair and misleading portrayal of opponents of proposed sites for relocating the Community Inn as a lynch mob.

A few individuals have expressed emotional objections at open public forums, but many more of us have expressed thoughtful concerns about facility plans, financing, security and management that have gone unanswered.

My neighbors have offered a constructive dialogue with the leadership of the Catholic Action Center and Community Inn, but in return we are portrayed as uncaring and ungenerous.

Concerns over the administration and locations of these facilities will only be solved through thoughtful community discourse: Christiansen's lynch mob analogy seems much more designed to antagonize and demonize than to facilitate constructive conversation.

Residents of the Meadowthorpe neighborhood have reached out to Ginny Ramsey of the Catholic Action Center and to Christiansen of the Central Kentucky Housing and Homeless Initiative on multiple occasions over the last several months to initiate a positive and constructive dialogue to address issues and neighborhood concerns, but those invitations have been declined.

I live in a diverse community of individuals who care deeply about their neighbors and their community. Several of those neighbors work or volunteer with the homeless in Lexington; many more donate regularly to support facilities and programs for the homeless.

Meadowthorpe is not a lynch mob, and we are not blind or uncaring to the plight of the dispossessed. We simply expect anyone attempting to do the right thing to have a concrete plan before they set out to do so.

The Catholic Action Center and Community Inn provide a valuable service in sheltering the dispossessed, mentally ill and others struggling in our community. However, both facilities have well-documented histories of sheltering some individuals who are not responsible neighbors to the community around them.

This is not to imply that the entire population the facilities serve is disruptive, but rather that a few individuals within their population are behaving badly toward those who live nearby. Being a responsible neighbor has nothing to do with whether one is a homeowner, a renter or homeless. It simply means showing respect to those around you.

Documented complaints associated with the facilities include public intoxication, fighting, disorderly behavior, public urination, loitering crowds, trash and vandalism. These are not stereotypes or heartless discrimination being applied to a hapless population, but genuine concerns raised by existing neighbors based on actual conduct.

According to the Aug. 13 Herald-Leader, Catholic Action hired a part-time security guard to protect children who were frightened to walk past the facility on their way to and from school. The Community Inn hired a part-time security guard because of neighbors' complaints about disorderly behavior near the shelter (Herald-Leader, March 21, 2012) and local businesses whose employees were scared to walk to their cars at night.

A security guard might be a good first step, but it is not a conclusive solution to bad behavior. My neighborhood does not currently require a security guard to protect us from our neighbors.

It is unreasonable to expect any neighborhood to welcome any facilities with such a track record of sheltering bad neighbors before those facilities offer a demonstrably successful plan to address the issues.

Relocating the facility will only export the problem to another area. The issues of unsatisfactory neighbor relations must be addressed before anyone should be expected to accept these facilities in their back yard.

At issue: Nov. 17 commentary by David Christiansen, "Lexington leaders must face mob, protect homeless"

William Andrews is a resident of Lexington's Meadowthorpe neighborhood.

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