The debate continues regarding the future of the Harvey County Homeless Shelter, and whether or not the shelter should be located in a residential neighborhood.
The Harvey County Homeless Shelter had planned to construct a new facility at the site of the old Bethel Hospital. The proposed site for the new shelter is near a residential neighborhood, and residents of the neighborhood have voiced concerns about the project.
Property owners have said they are concerned it might not be safe to place the shelter in an area with children and families and said they feared there could be an increase in crime in the neighborhood.
"This is not about the use or the mission of the shelter,” local homeowner Tina Williams said. “This is merely about the location. I just do not feel a residential area is an appropriate place.”
Homeless shelter board members have said they have a legal right to build and operate the shelter at the site. The shelter already has spent $100,000 of donor money to purchase the vacant lot.
Board member Harold Schorn was concerned the shelter’s current location was no longer adequate for the needs of the shelter.
“You’re just keeping the staff, the residents — they’re citizens — you’re keeping them in the basement of an old hospital. … I just don’t think it’s right that we stay there.”
At one of their meetings, Newton City Commissioners voted to effectively put the homeless shelter project on hold while the issue is explored in greater detail. They approved an ordinance creating the requirement of a license to operate a temporary shelter (homeless shelter) in the city and imposed a moratorium on the issuance of such licenses for six months pending the study of this issue by the Newton-North Newton Area Planning Commission.