Continuing what, to an outsider, might look like an all-out effort to eliminate any sympathy the city council may have had for them, a small parade of Lake City residents lined up at this morning's council finance committee meeting to trash the city's plans to turn the abandoned Fire Station 39 into services and housing for homeless families.
Typical comments included the following:
"Lake city is often described as Little Beirut. ... Why is Lake City considered a dumping ground for the homeless and a haven for drug dealers and criminals? … It’s hard to attract customers when they need to walk through a gauntlet of homeless and sidewalks that smell like sewers. ... The already stressed surrounding community can't sustain them. A place to sleep and 99-cent beer around the corner is not enough."
"It’s not about not wanting homeless people. It’s about the community where we live being stretched to the limit---the tipping point, if you know what I mean. Last weekend … there were three gunshots outside our corner … A little girl was born next door to us on the Fourth of July to a professional couple and I'm asking you, what are her chances? Is she going to take a bullet?"
Staffers for several city departments tried to assure residents that what they're actually proposing is family housing and general community services---not a drunk tank for gun-wielding, shit-smelling homeless people. And they noted that Lake City is well below the city's maximum concentration of subsidized housing (although some Lake City residents dispute their definition of subsidized low-income housing). Judging by the fact that the rhetoric around the Lake City proposal hasn't changed since the council first broached it back in 2011 (Mayor McGinn himself didn't exactly help, springing a new Nickelsville at the fire station on the neighborhood with virtually no notice back in 2010), their message isn't getting through much either.
Ultimately, though, it's up to the council whether to locate family housing at Fire Station 39 or move it elsewhere. Shouting about gunshots and sewage-strewn sidewalks isn't making a case; it's just amping up the volume on an already volatile issue.
(The city plans to hold a series of meetings on the Lake City proposal starting in September or October 2012.)
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