Right idea, wrong location

Sister Pat Millen, the Family Center Developer for Catholic Communtiy Services, is on a worthwhile crusade to build a $1.6 million homeless shelter in Bremerton by January 2005.

In January 2000, a Salvation Army census of homeless people in and around Bremerton revealed more than 700 people living on the streets, in vehicles and in abandoned buildings. The census was by no means complete, however, because there were boundaries that had to be followed, such as the census takers were not allowed to look under bridges and such.

Keep in mind, this census was taken more than three years ago. The economy has take a notable nose-dive since then: the dot-com industry went dot-bust, layoffs in the Puget Sound region have been rampant in all industries and, simply put, affordable housing is not the easiest thing to come by.

That being said, it would be obvious that there are probably many more homeless people now than there were three years ago.

The question is, what are we going to do about it?

Well, Sister Pat Millen has taken it on and wants to build a homeless shelter at Cambrian and Rodgers streets. That location was picked because Habitat for Humanity is donating the land.

We are not disputing the need for a homeless shelter. We are disputing the location.

Why? Because that is a neighborhood. It’s a neighborhood where families with children have chosen to purchase homes and try to make lives for themselves. Homeless shelters will no doubt attract an element that may be bad for the neighborhood; that is just a hard fact.

True, not all homeless are drug addicts, alcoholics or pose any danger whatsoever. If said homeless shelter is built, there will be a strict screening process to ensure that no sex offenders will be allowed to stay. The problem, however, is that there is no screening process for those who hang out in the area trying to get a bunk for the night.

That is the concern of the neighbors. As it should be.

We are not disputing the need for a homeless shelter in the area.

It’s the right idea, but it’s the wrong location.

Perhaps, instead of putting it in the middle of a neighborhood, a more appropriate location would be in the downtown area, closer to the Salvation Army, which is located on Sixth Street and feeds about 120 homeless men every day. It also would be in closer proximity to the Veterans Administration office on Burwell Street. Considering the fact that some of the homeless men are bound to need those services, a location in the downtown area would be much more appropriate than one smack-dab in the middle of a neighborhood that does not provide any of these services.

Any way about it, we acknowledge that a shelter is needed and wish Sister Pat Millen the best in her crusade.

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