Community meeting held in opposition to proposed mental health, homeless shelter

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Strong opposition rang out in a community meeting held for neighboring residents to the possible mental health and homeless facility.

That facility, the former Ridgecrest Health and Rehabilitation Center is located on North Church Street.

Around 85 residents attended the Tuesday night meeting which took place at the Philadelphia Fire Station, with most voicing their concerns about the homeless shelter being located in their neighborhood.

Danny Pridmore, interim director for the Homeless Ministries of Jonesboro who will operate half of the facility, attended the meeting to answer the questions and concerns of residents.

"I understand their concerns because this is a big deal in their home," said Pridmore. "We will be a helping house. We will help people who want to be helped."

Some residents feel this will be a blow to property values.

"You're defacing our property, you're defacing our area," said one resident. "Every time you turn around they want the north part of Jonesboro to be better but all they do is put stuff like this out there. We don't want it!"

Other residents worry about how the homeless shelter will be regulated and supervised.

"They will come for one night and then they are going to leave and they can't stop them," said the resident. "Then they are going to come to our homes right in our neighborhoods. It is too far for them to walk back to town."

Pridmore addressed that concern.

"We will have transportation and strict guidelines and rules," said Pridmore. "We will model the Mission Outreach in Paragould who have been successful for over 30 years."

Residents were still uneasy.

"I understand there is a need to help people and help the homeless, I do," said a resident. "Number one, I just don't think this area is the right place to put it because it is far away from anything that they are trying to do. We will have several people walking up and down the street with the school so close. I am not comfortable with that."

Though residents are against the location, Pridmore strongly believes it is a great deal.

"Being given this building that meets all of the requirements is a God send to us," said Pridmore.

One resident in attendance brought up his experience with homeless individuals.

"They will fight and do things that are just undesirable," said the resident. "They are going to get in there, not like the rules, and then walk right out of the facility just to do something crazy and try to get back in. Then when they don't, they'll throw things in windows or do things out of anger and that is dangerous. Most of them live on the street because they want to live on the street."

Pridmore said they will not work with people with a bad history.

"We'll do drug tests, background checks and all of that," said Pridmore. "The homeless are in Jonesboro and will be in Jonesboro. Some of them are not all bad criminals but are people who have been put in their situations because something bad has happened in their lives. Those are the people we are going to focus on to get on their feet again."

Pridmore said they will go through a process that emphasizes their mission.

"We are not a flop house for just anybody to come and stay," said Pridmore. "We want to rehouse people. Put them back in the community. Have them pay taxes and be dependable citizens of Jonesboro. This location is good because I want the community to get involved and I want people living this area to volunteer and get involved. That's what we need."

Some residents, however, still feel in their backyard is not the place to do it.

"I understand the price is right on the building," said one resident. "I understand what you are trying to do but we are one of the best-kept secrets in Jonesboro and we want to keep it that way."

The Jonesboro Metropolitan Area Planning Commission will hold a meeting Tuesday Oct. 10. There, this issue will likely be discussed.

Copyright 2017 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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