Who’ll help the homeless? Not Moorhead

Moorhead’s City Council has voted unanimously to oppose housing for the homeless.

Churches United has applied for a $6 million state grant for the apartment complex for chronically homeless and homeless families.

Predictably, the neighbors objected.

“Shoplifting will go up and theft from the neighborhoods, from yards will go up. I know this. I’m a Fargo police officer,” Susan Dealing said, according to the Fargo Forum. “This kind of development is not going to bring any positive to our neighborhood.”

She wasn’t the only cop to mobilize the opposition.

“A Realtor told her, and I quote, ‘You don’t want to buy a house there,’ ” Fargo police officer Jason Abel said.

Abel said he bristles at the idea that this is NIMBY — not in my backyard — at its worst.

“For someone to tell me that I don’t care about the homeless, I get pretty upset,” Abel said. “That’s the reason I became a cop. I care.”

The City Council thinks some property downtown near the railroad tracks is more appropriate for the homeless. But the agency says the neighborhood has amenities such as grocery stores and bus stops.

Council members said there is little the city can do to stop the project. City Manager Michael Redlinger said Churches United already owns the site and it’s zoned for mixed-use.

“People can buy land, and they can build things based on the zoning that it is,” Mayor Del Rae Williams said.

Redlinger said the city can work with the planning department on fencing or shrubbery buffer zones between the existing neighborhoods and the apartment complex, to which someone in the audience whispered, “That’s not going to do anything.”

Redlinger said the apartment complex would also fall into the city’s rental registry program. This means, in part, that if there is a certain level of police activity with any particular tenant, the city works with the property owners to get that tenant evicted. Churches United has also said registered sex offenders will not be allowed to live in the complex.

Councilman Jim Haney proposed the resolution of nonsupport. His motion, which was not on the agenda and came at the end of an hourlong conversation, elicited loud applause from the audience.

Council members Heidi Durand and Chuck Hendrickson showed some concern that such a vote would be a vote against the project entirely. Durand and others said they’d like to work with Churches United to find a different location.

To which Haney replied: “To be honest with you, I question whether there’s a need for it anyplace,” another comment that had frustrated neighbors clapping.

  • “To be honest with you, I question whether there’s a need for it anyplace…”

    It’s nice to see that Moorhead has figured out a solution to the homeless problem.

  • John O.

    I wonder what their reaction is going to be when the inevitable oil “bust” comes and some of the population from the “mancamps” find their way to F-M?

    • From what I understand, the “bust” is more than 20 years out, plenty of time to “kick the can down the road” until it becomes an unsustainable crisis.

  • MrE85

    Officer Abel cares about the homeless, as long as they live somewhere else.

  • boB from WA

    I wonder how many of those opposed to this project belong to the communities of faith that support Churches United.

  • DavidG

    And update: the Clay County Commission attempted, but failed to rescind their support for the homeless complex in a tied vote (one commissioner was absent, so it could very well end up revoked in a future vote): http://www.inforum.com/content/clay-commission-fails-split-vote-rescind-support-homeless-apartment-complex-north-moorhead

    I would guess that lack of support from the county and/or city would doom Churches United’s grant application.

  • Residents United

    I applaud the City Council for their unified stance. We can’t allow businesses to come in and conduct dealings behind closed doors and then bully their way through our cities. While this move may not have directly affected me based on where I live, it certainly might the next time.
    In June, Churches United was asked by Council Members to reach out to the community and to work on becoming a better neighbor through meetings and discussions. Churches United chose to ignore that recommendation. At the council meeting on July 15, Churches United seemed almost arrogant in stating that they intended on moving forward regardless of the opposition. It seems hipocrytical that a group so concerned about the residents of the community feels the need to just bully their way through others.
    It didn’t seem like the City Council took a unified stance that they are opposed to a Homeless Center. They just didn’t like they way in which this came about. That has been clear since the first meeting in June. After being pushed around by Churches United, the City Council was left with really only one option. They did the right thing Monday night in making it clear that they didn’t appreciate the manner in which this has played out.

    • Churches United owns the property. The property is zoned for the project they want to build. Why do you think they owe you something? When you built in your neighborhood, did you have to talk to all the neighbors?

      • Residents United

        Nope. I sure didn’t. My home was built in a planned community. The building of my home, in a single unit residential area was similar to my neighbors. I did however need to get the signatures of my neighbors when I wanted to put up a fence. That was part of the city ordinance, but I’d have asked for the neighbors’ approval anyway as it would seem to be the proper thing to do considering I live right next to them and as such, my choices would affect them as well. I would want them to accept me as their neighbor. Showing some common courtesy and respect through talking directly with the three (both sides and back) certainly helped build good relationships with each.
        They don’t owe me specifically anything. I just don’t appreciate an organization privately making decisions that affect the public and then dismissing the public’s concerns. That is not very neighborly.

        • Guest

          Don’t veil your prejudices regarding the homeless with concerns about “being neighborly” or the need for discussions.

          • Residents United

            No prejudices against the homeless. As the Mayor stated, there’s nothing the City Council can do about this process. Churches United certainly is within their rights to build in the location they own.

            I was simply offering support for the City Council who seem to be getting some flak for voicing their concerns. I also don’t agree with Councilman Haney.

            I think “good neighbor” does apply here though. If a factory or commercial building is replaced in this scenario, then that entity catches some heat for being insensitive to the community. They brush it off and move on. In this case the “entity” isn’t a factory or a business. It is a group of families. Families that want to improve their way of life. Families that want to be productive members of society. These families need every opportunity of support possible so they can get back on their feet and move forward. I don’t think Churches United acted responsibly in this manner.

            Make no mistake, I’m in support of their being a proper residence for the homeless to get back on their feet. In this specific case though, I don’t think it was handled properly with respect to the residents and the future tenants of the apartment complex. They manner in which this came about only creates discomfort and Churches United should have approached it better as they were advised to.

        • rosebud

          I really pity you… This apartment complex is going to be just like any other, like RKAK, Goldmark. they are going to be very choosy of who they will rent to. The only difference is that it is being built by a organization who actually cares about others.. When I moved to Moorhead 3 years ago, I was homeless and stayed at churches united for 7 months. I do not drink, smoke, do drugs, steal. or lazy… With their support and help, I now have an apartment, and a job.. I really wish you people would stop with the stereotyping and judgements of others less fortunate then you. One day, you might be out on the streets and not know where you’re going to lay you’re head, or what to eat.. How would you like being called, “lazy, criminal, good for nothing”?

          • Residents United

            I am sorry you feel that way. I’m also sorry for your situation three years ago, but am glad to hear you’re doing better.
            I don’t need your pity though. I think you misunderstand my perspective here. I’m not against a apt complex being built. I’m not against support for the homeless.
            Regarding stereotyping, you referenced me as “you people”. You then quoted me as having said “lazy, criminal, good for nothing” when in fact that simply is not true. I hope that the future residents of the complex get all the support they can. My perspective is that the way in which Churches United went about this process isn’t ideal for that to happen and as such, I believe the City Council responded appropriately.

      • Nicholas Kraemer

        The people who live in a community should have a say about how that community grows, right? The thing is, there is ample evidence to suggest a strong correlation between poverty and crime, meaning that the fear these residents have is not baseless. Moreover, it isn’t like Churches United is using its own money to build this project. It is using state money. In a case where tax dollars are going to be used to change the nauture of a neighborhood I think the residents should be allowed to have loud voice on how those changes happen.

  • MJB

    To those who are opposed to this project…. granted CU could have done more outreach, but they own the property and it’s zoned for the intended use. In the end, if you have a complaint, it should be directed at the city, not they property owner, as it was the city that determined the zoning. When Casey’s General Store built a station across the street from me, they didn’t ask me if the traffic, noise, lights, decrease in property value, etc. would be an inconvenience for me! And, I wouldn’t have expected them to, so I don’t get why you believe CU had an obligation to get your permission to build in the neighborhood.

    • Residents United

      I agree completely! Which is why I showed support for the City Council. As you stated, the complaints should be directed at the city. Then it should become the responsibility of the City Council to share the sentiment of their public.

      They did and are catching heat. I’m just simply showing support.

      I’m not opposed to the project. I also didn’t state CU needed my permission. I stated that it would have been a better option to get their soon to be new neighbors involved in the process. It would have helped alleviate this anxiety. In fact I stated it didn’t directly affect me.

      Your Casey’s comparison was addressed. Businesses can shrug off the collateral damage done in that scenario. Bread doesn’t care if you don’t want it there. The residents of the apt building CU is putting up will though. Again, my point is that I support the stance of the City Council for representing their residents given the way this entire process took place. In fact, I don’t think CU left them with any other option.

      • Guest

        The City Council is catching heat? Flak? From who? Bob Collins? Send the Council my sympathies. Their vote opposing the project was met with applause. Please direct me to additional writers standing up for what is right – I could use the encouragement on this sad day for Moorhead.

        So you think the City Council was doing homeless people a favor by opposing this project? You say you aren’t opposed to the project but are you a supporter of the project? You can either help homeless people get a home or you can hinder.

        You evidently don’t think Churches United has acted responsibly in its effort to provide homes to the homeless. Are Moorhead City officials acting responsibly? Are County officials acting responsibly? Or are they reacting to the unfounded fears of vocal group attending hearings?

        • Residents United

          I do not think City Council’s vote made a difference either way. As has been stated, legally CU has every right to build on the property they own. I don’t think City Council was doing CU a favor by opposing this project though and I agree with that. I don’t support an entity that has a secret business deal, applies for public funds, and then thumbs their nose at the public, all while
          I’m not in support of simply getting the homeless a home. I’m in support of getting the homeless a home and a healthy environment in which they can get back on their feet and prosper. In that regard specifically, I don’t think Churches United acted responsibly. They are taking a business approach to a residential dilemma.
          If the only concern is a roof over the heads of the homeless, then I disagree with the vote. If the concern is that a healthy environment is created offering shelter, amenities, and a supportive community then I agree with the vote. I believe the officials acted responsibly out of the best interests of all residents that will be affected (current residents as well as the new residents of the apt complex). I believe the majority voted their opposition to the way in which CU approached this project rather than opposition for a home for the homeless.

  • jon abel

    Fargo cops should stay the hell out of my state. They should be sued for even showing up.