Homeless Shelters to Be Regulated

This morning, protestors supporting Wayside Christian Mission marched up and down Liberty Street with “Jesus Loves All People” and John 3:16 on signs they waved over their head. A few dozen people sang “We Shall Overcome.” It was like the ’60s all over again.

They were there, believe it or not, for a Board of Zoning Adjustment meeting.

BOZA was considering a case involving the need for regulation of homeless shelters. Last spring, when Wayside was attempting to purchase the old Mercy Academy building on East Broadway, it got a ruling from Planning staff that said it was possible their application to locate there would be approved.

Since there are no mentions of homeless shelters in the land development code, no one was certain the use would be allowed. So the Original Highlands Neighborhood Association hired an attorney, Stephen Porter, and filed an appeal of the decision.

The hearing went on this morning for four hours in a tightly-packed room. Wayside, which had orchestrated a highly-visible presence, brought witnesses who testified about the merits of the job they’re doing.  While they tried to make the case about Wayside, the BOZA board was more interested in a loophole in the code.

BOZA approved the appeal and went a few steps further. It decided to form a task force to write new regulations for the code. The Planning Commission, the Metro Council and many other organizations will be invited to be on the task force.

Homeless shelters are not addressed in the zoning code, and the use doesn’t fit into any other categories. So this BOZA move will rectify that.

6 thoughts on “Homeless Shelters to Be Regulated

  1. This is a victory for the homeless and loss who see the homeless as a goldmine to make money. The goal was never to stop Wayside or any other shelter here, but a shelter that would be the right size (50 person bedsize, like Scholar House), staffing that responded to the needs of its clients and would not have an adverse negative impact on property values like East Market Shelter. We won because we got the best lawyer who found that there was no zoning provision in the Louisville zoning code. We won because various factions came together on this issue in the OHNA neighborhood. We won because Chuck Burke worked hundreds of hours on websites, signage and insisting that everyone had a chance to participate. We won because we framed it as an issue of protecting the homeless from being treated as second class citizens without proper protections covering overcrowding, health, food, sanitation, and protecting children. We won because we showed that “no-regulation” Louisville was way behind other cities around the country which would specify location of homeless shelters, size, inspections, evaluations and proper staffing. We won because we noted that it was homeless who demanded reform of homeless shelters in these cities. We won because the head of Wayside bragged it got over $100,000 in public money from metro council along with HUD money which needed to be accounted for as part of the public trust. We won because nobody believed that supporting regulation of housing made you a racist or sexist or hater of the elderly or disabled. What’s next for Metro Housing Council getting rid of restaurant inspections, work place inspections, car safety inspections because they too are racists and sexist? Now the so called advocates for the homeless are really advocates for business as usual with no regulations, no public accountability, and protecting the six figure salaries of the administrators. At the end of the hearings, a homeless person thanked me and OHNA with our good intentions and hoped that Louisville will get better at helping the homeless. I call on the true advocates of he homeless to stop thinkintg about a warehouse approach and provide first class not second class housing.

  2. Hmmm … so, “John” or whatever your name is … you and your friends are ready to step up with a complete program to address both homelessness and the issues that cause it? You call yourself an advocate for the homeless, and you want the homeless to have first-class housing — wow, excellent! You’ve got the money, right? And the program? And the staff?

    No? You don’t have any of that? Oh …

    I think you need to put your money where your lawsuit is.

    Wayside is not perfect. But as someone who has had some intimate interactions with the homeless situation in this city, I can tell you that they, at least, are out there trying. And not just for the 10 or 15 in a “right size” shelter.

    This city needs more homeless shelters and homeless programs. This city needs more homeless-to-work-to-apartment programs. But it seems that all anyone like you wants to do is criticize Wayside and shove the problem somewhere else.

    Congratulations, you won. You succeeded is moving the problem to someone else’s back yard. Happy NIMBY Day to you!

  3. Hmmm… so “Bruce” or whatever your name is … (What is that about?)

    Most of the Wayside supporters in this issue are pretty emotional and/or upset, so it’s probably easy to miss the point. And I get that. However, we’ll never find common ground as long as you and folks like you refuse to acknowledge the real point of our opposition.

    No one is saying that Wayside doesn’t do good work.

    No one is saying that that Wayside can’t be BIG.

    No one is even saying that they can’t put thousands of homeless under one GIANT roof if they like.

    All we’re saying is that they can’t be GIANT and also located right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Just because they perform good work doesn’t mean they should be allowed to plant a mega shelter right right beside Jim’s home. It wouldn’t be acceptable if they were trying to open a 300+ room hotel at Mercy, so how on earth could it be acceptable to plant a 300+ bed homeless shelter next to someone’s house?

    We have zoning laws for a reason. If we’re going to disregard zoning because someone does good work, we should probably just throw out all zoning now and have a free for all.

    If they want to be a mega-shelter they need to be somewhere where mega-sized facilities fit in well (commercially zoned areas). If they want to fit into residential neighborhoods, directly beside a single-family home at that, then they need to be of a size that won’t overwhelm that neighborhood.

    Just so it’s not missed or misconstrued… It’s about the SIZE, not the USE. We have boarding homes on this block right now for alcoholics, schizophrenics and pregnant teens. No one has any problems with them because they are sized in such a way that they fit into the neighborhood.

    If Wayside wants or needs to be giant in order to accomplish their mission, they can locate their facility where the giants are… commercially zoned areas. There’s tons of them, they will have no problems finding a home in one.

    If you believe that they actually want the old Hotel Louisville property, and that it’s not a political or real estate play, then they already have found a new home and this issue is resolved.

    – Chuck

  4. Zoning regulations have a purpose. It keeps inappropriate developments out of certain areas, and keeps them from being precluded from others. Zoning regulations protect individuals from future changes that would alter the neighborhood and property values from what they were when they purchased the property. Likewise, they reduce the ability for those neighborhood to restrict a business from moving into a location that is properly zoned for the usage.

    Bruce, your beef shouldn’t revolve around the desire to place a zoning restriction on the homeless usage, rather your beef lies in that you have concerns about the anticipated restrictions that will be placed on the usage. You have alluded in your defensive comments that they should be allowed anywhere in the city, but the obviously they should not.

    Homeless shelters, like it or not, are unique uses in that they have the ability to greatly impact property values due to their negative stigma and place greater demand on public services than many other uses.

    I hope the drafting of a good homeless zoning regulation with proper input from all sides of the issue, would help the shelter find a future home. The problem now is that neighbors can fight any proposed location since there is no approved zoning location. If they narrow their property searches to approved zoning areas, the obstacles that neighbors would put up, can be fought.

    I think your issue should be with the level of stigma and not with the need to apply a zoning restriction to the usage.

  5. Well said John AND Chuck. Most people in Louisville have not even given this subject a second thought, so it could be hard to understand if it was NOT in your backyard. But..if the idea of a 300+ bed facility moving into your neighborhood was presented, you just might be called a NIMBY too. I am glad I stood firm against the idea of the shelter at Mercy from the beginning. It was a bad idea for everyone. Well, except maybe the Moseleys. The homeless community deserves our attention and they certainly have it now. Thanks for all your efforts. Many people appreciate all your hard work.

  6. I couldn’t help but notice all the courtroom support for the wayside on the day of the hearing. I believe that ALL those with strong sentiments against the Wayside being located at Mercy had been there for the four plus hours to support
    Dr. Gilderbloom it would have been greatly appreciated. Something like “put your money where your mouth is”.

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