Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Southeast Roanoke neighborhoods want relief from homeless

Eddy Smart of Conflict Resolution Center

It’s a trust issue with the neighborhoods explained Mark Powell President of the Southeast Action Forum. The unspoken elephant in the room Monday evening was an unwanted expansion of the Rescue Mission on 4th street in Southeast Roanoke.

The Rescue Mission plans to relocate its thrift store to Bullitt Avenue leaving room then moving the kitchen and dining areas to the thrift store. The kitchen and dining areas would then be used to increase and better utilize existing beds at the mission.

The Rescue Mission calls it a re-purposing but the majority of the neighborhoods see it as an expansion. Ten years ago when the neighborhood fought against the women’s shelter they won assurances from then city manager Darlene Burcham that there would be no more expansion.

There were about 50 people at the Jackson Park Library including council members Ray Ferris, Bill Bestpitch, Anita Price, Mayor David Bowers and his primary opponent Sam Rasoul.

Staff from code enforcement, planning, waste management, and Deputy Police Chief Tim Jones . Residents came from the Belmont and Norwich Neighborhood Watches, SEAF and a few residents from other quadrants of the city.

Lt. Mac Babb said the preponderance of 911 calls were nuisance related – mostly alcohol, and trespassing violations. He said “the concentration of these non-violent offenses in the proximity of the Rescue Mission effects the quality of life of the neighborhoods.”

Matt Henry, President of  the Nazarene Neighborhood Watch suggested the Rescue Mission hire a full time security officer during the day. Despite no trespassing signs “they hang in the street all day long,” said Liz Dudley President of Belmont Neighborhood Watch.

Kirk Ballin (foreground), Joy Sylvester-Johnson Rescue Mission Director

Joy Sylvester-Johnson, the mission’s executive director sat quietly as they broke out into three different groups facilitated by Eddy Smart and Donna Chewning of the Conflict Resolution Center. Powell asked them to facilitate what could have been a contentious meeting. Smart then proceeded to lead the group in compiling ground rules for the discussions that included not interrupting and speaking only one at a time.

What has irked the neighborhood most is that they learned of the plan from the media rather then from Sylvester-Johnson. This has only served to dredge up past neighborhood conflicts that splintered the neighborhood as the women’s shelter expansion played out in 2002.

Duane Howard has formed a separate group called Neighbors United that includes residents from the effected neighborhoods. The group is opposed to anything that looks like an expansion of the Rescue Mission.

All admit that the Rescue Mission fills a social need by sheltering the homeless and the downtrodden. It is the repeat offenders,  chronic alcoholics that refuse help loitering on their property that causes angst for the weary neighborhoods. A partial solution would be to refuse sale of single serve alcohol products at the two stores adjacent to the Rescue Mission.

Matt Henry President of the Nazarene Neighborhood Watch said that there are actually five stores that the transients frequent. Restriction of the sale of single serve alcohol products would require intervention by the ABC board – a long process that could have mixed results.

“They need a place to go during the day,” said Henry. Kirk Ballin said that not all want to take the bus to RAM house for shelter during the day. “They don’t like the restrictions RAM imposes.” Smoking, cigarette butts, littering, public urination, and buses brining vagrants from outside the Roanoke Region were added to the list of complaints.

Ballin said, “they were committed to find a solution.”

After each group produced a laundry list of possible solutions the group at large narrowed it down to three. The focus never left the first item that everyone selected as the top priority – they want the “homeless disappearing from the streets.”

They concluded that one solution would mostly solve the second and third priorities of “enhanced security” and “personal responsibility.” Laura Padgett who works at the Rescue Mission and lives in Southest suggested that a member of the neighborhood be allowed to join the Board of Directors.

The next step is to have neighborhood advocates meet with the Rescue Mission in no less then 30 days in hopes of negotiating policies that would meet the neighborhoods concerns.

There is a resolution being refined that neighborhoods can sign once completed. The Southeast neighborhoods and the Neighbors United group hopes to get the downtown association, Southwest and South Roanoke on board. Howard said that some of the homeless have taken to the free trolleys and have begun to panhandle on McClanahan and Franklin Road.

The resolution points to the Belmont –Fallon Neighborhood Vision Plan adopted in 2003 says in part “While the Rescue Mission and other such agencies provide crucial human services, these facilities already have a considerable presence in the area and further expansion of homeless shelter function should be avoided.”

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Community, Crime, Local Events

Tags: , ,

Comments (9)

E. Duane Howard

January 10th, 2012 at 2:34 PM    

Error Correction:

Matt Henry is the President of the Nazarene Neighborhood Watch, Not Norwich.

Interestingly, I was at Hardee’s this morning around 6:30 AM…Upon leaving I was greated by two of the Rescue Missions Guest, asking for money. Then Several hours later, I saw a homeless, who I often see on my street, he has a city big blue strapped to his dolly pushing it down the street. I did call 911 on him. I live on the other side of Bullitt & Jamiosn from the Rescue Mission, but they are able to fan out across the city, affecting far more neighborhoods than just in the immediate vacinity of the Rescue Mission. It’s a city problem as much as a neighborhood problem.

Dallas Powell

January 10th, 2012 at 3:00 PM    

And first thing this morning on my way to work I see a group of Rescue Mission tenants passing around a beer in a brown paper bag and joking with each other. That’s right, first thing this morning. I really don’t like seeing that stuff every day on the way to and from work.


January 10th, 2012 at 3:01 PM    

Valerie, nice job. thanks – Kirk

Liz Dudley

January 10th, 2012 at 4:08 PM    

They caught the guy over here on 6th St SE with the Big Blue trash can on a dolly. He resisted arrest, police office had him down on the ground. The other people appeared out of the blue and the officer arrested another man. Right before he arrested the second man ,a woman approached the situation and was giving the officer words. Then a neighbor came out and was taking sides with the woman and this neighbor didn’t know what was going on. You don’t interfere with law enforcement, no matter what. Some property owners have no respect for the law. The officer didn’t do anything wrong. He should have taken the others downtown as well. For being stupid if nothing else.

Now about the Rescue Mission; The Rescue Mission has created the conditions in our neighborhood and they need to correct it ASAP. Belmont Neighborhood Association opposes the expansion. We want quality of life in our neighborhood like any other neighborhood.

Joy Sylvestor-Johnson thought the city would bring more trash cans in,like before when the city agreed to put more trash cans on 4th St. She needs to step up to the base and take responsibility and star correcting the conditions in our neighborhood. After all this is her creation. She brings the homeless from all over the state of Virginia and out of state. As well as newly released inmates from prison. When they get here, she gives them a card and they go to social services This money comes from our city’s budget. And where does the money come from for the city’s budget? From the tax payers. If something isn’t done about this, Roanoke is going to be known for being the homeless capitol of the east. People will move away and you know the rest. A city destroyed by Joy Sylvestor-Johnson.


January 10th, 2012 at 4:34 PM    

Thanks for correction. Why I typed Norwich rather than Nazarene I don’t know. I know better. :)


January 10th, 2012 at 4:58 PM    

Hi Liz,

Wow, never a dull moment … I have this vision of a “big blue” on a dolly … say what?

What in the world he was going to use it for or what was in it.

Kirk, thanks for the kudos. It could have been twice as long I’m sure.

Hope something is worked out or “someone” at least takes responsibility. Keep me in the loop on the progress.

Liz Dudley

January 10th, 2012 at 8:27 PM    

He was going around the neighborhood going through every body trash can taking what he wanted and putting it in the Big Blue trash can he had on the dolly. It’s like dumpster diving which is against the law. Some people do it to get personal info, like documents that haven’t been shredded. You see it all around here, it’s like the Zoo. I’ll keep you in the loop. Thanks!

I have two comments that double posted, how do I get one off?

E. Duane Howard

January 10th, 2012 at 11:45 PM    

First off, I saw nothing wrong with the my picture on the front page until two people today said, “It looked like Victor was giving me the finger”…LOL…So I had ot go back and look again and LMAO, agree. That being said, Thanks Val for all your excellent coverage. Impressive that Jorge from the paper can write that article and met the deadline. For those of you who were not around for the women’s shelter issue, they had the same Resolution Facilitator and group meeting 10 years ago, and you see what changed over ten years….- 0 -…!

Now take take Joy’s statement to the paper; if she is skeptical, it’s only because she doesn’t want to be bother with any demands from us. …

How in God’s name could anyone sit there for two hours and not utter one word ?

Jack Mcguire

January 11th, 2012 at 4:59 PM    

As someone who has lived in SE for 30 years, it IS time for other parts of the City to share in care for the homeless. Its unfair to have this huge homeless population concentrated in the SE area of town.Unfair to property owners and citizens who want a clean safe neighborhood to live in.

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