People who see Winchester Road and its strip joints only from their autos may not realize this. The streets that abut this seamy business district are lined with neat yards and modest homes, many of which are occupied by elderly people and young families.
These Lexington residents are just as entitled to the protection of land-use laws as more affluent neighborhoods. In fact, you could argue that neighborhoods on commercial margins need more vigilant protection to remain viable places to live. The Board of Adjustment had no choice but to revoke a conditional-use permit being used by a homeless shelter at 824 Winchester Road.
The permit had been issued for operation of a church with specificassurances to the board and neighbors that it would not become a homeless shelter.
None of that is to suggest the shelter, the Community Inn, is not filling a vital need in Lexington. The men and women who go there for a night's rest are out of options. Many suffer from addiction and mental illness and have exhausted their families and other social service providers. They would be on the streets without the Community Inn and its dedicated staff and volunteers.
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Sadly, their complex problems have become the neighborhood's problems from 8 a.m., when the shelter closes until it reopens at 7 p.m.
This is a responsibility that should fall not on any single charity or neighborhood but on the community as a whole.
The board of adjustment granted the shelter six months to find another place, and Mayor Jim Gray plans to appoint a task force on homelessness. This should not be an insoluble problem if Lexington marshals all its forces in good faith.