LOCAL NEWS AND VIDEO FOR
DIXON, STERLING AND ROCK FALLS, IL
December 18, 2014 Partly Cloudy, 27°F

Plan commission denies request for second homeless shelter

DIXON – The plan commission said no Thursday to a request from PADS to run a homeless shelter for women and children at a donated house at 1117 University St.

Commissioners cited concerns for changing the dynamic of the neighborhood and potential overcrowding at the house. The 6-2 vote is nonbinding; the City Council will get the final say.

Attorney Gary Gehlbach, who represented PADS, said the organization may withdraw its request before it goes to the council, though.

Marion Younger, PADS executive director, said the organization wants to alleviate overcrowding at its First Street shelter. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom house on University would be for women and children only, as stated in the organization's petition to the city. 

Tonja and Matthew Beard, who own the home, have been PADS volunteers and want to donate the home because they are moving out of the city.

“At the blink of an eye, anyone could be homeless,” Tonja Beard said. “Look at the situation in Oklahoma. We've see the growth and change [at PADS], and the impact it can make.”

Dixon Building Official Paul Shiaras said Fire Chief Tim Shipman is concerned about the overcrowding at the First Street shelter and would like to see a limit set for the amount of residents allowed at the proposed site.

Gehlbach agreed, and the commission voted to add an occupancy stipulation to the request.

The First Street shelter, open 24/7, year round, now has 29 residents – 11 men, 10 women and eight children, Younger said. They are allowed to stay up to 6 months, and must file a request to stay longer.

PADS has had to turn down requests from about 20 others needing shelter, she said.

A couple of neighbors spoke against the proposed shelter.

A driveway separates Kathy Hermeyer from the Beards' home. The house is too small for a shelter and it would devalue the price of her home “with strangers constantly coming and going,” Hermeyer said.

Jim Letourneau, whose wife runs a day care in their home about 50 yards east, said he is worried a homeless shelter would hurt their business.

Younger said neighbors' biggest concern is that abused women would be housed there, but they live in a shelter in Sterling run by the YWCA.

A criminal backround check is done on anyone staying at the homeless shelter, she added.

Plan Commission Chairman Tom Houck said the biggest concern was changing the face of the neighborhood, and limiting the occupancy.

One suggestion was to put the shelter in an industrial, rather than a residential area. Gehlbach said that would further stigmatize the people the shelter is trying to help.

“I'm bitterly disappointed,” Younger said, tears in her eyes. “I can't believe they don't see the need. I don't see how they could turn their back on women and children.

"I don't know what we're going to do next.”

How they voted

In favor of the shelter: John Weitzel, Tracey Lawton

Against the shelter: Kevin Marx, Louise Corken, Brian Seagren, Kathy Yount, Tom Houck, Greg Van Matre

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