Nick McWilliams reporting – As the back-and-forth continues between Tuscarawas County’s only emergency homeless shelter and its current host city, more than a dozen citizens showed up at the latest New Philadelphia council meeting.
At issue is another variance request from the Friends of the Homeless of Tuscarawas County, this time for a roughly three-and-a-acre property located on Beaver Avenue Northeast near Ray and Fair Avenue, behind Preach the Word Ministries.
During the initial parts of New Philadelphia council’s meeting Monday night, Police Chief Michael Goodwin was asked to speak and address requests from some city officials of call totals at the current location of the shelter.
“Since 2005, when we started keeping records, doing a search of the address of the homeless shelter, our department has responded 497 times. That is off the cuff, and looking at what we had in our computer. A lot of our records, the way you search, it depends on how they put it in. That was just at 211 East High Avenue.
Goodwin noted that those calls vary widely in severity, and they have conducted background checks on behalf of the shelter for applicants who wish to stay at the building.
Shelter representatives reiterated that anyone convicted of sex crimes or violent offenses are not permitted residency.
Josh O’Farrell, a New Philadelphia-native and attorney who served in the Ohio House of Representatives, spoke on behalf of the shelter, stating the question should not be on whether or not crime and risk heightens when a shelter is built, rather than what occurs when one is not available.
“The Friends of the Homeless do, indeed, need this community’s continued support. And this would be a very different community if that shelter did not exist. That’s why we’re here tonight. We need your help. We need this city’s help. We don’t need your money. We won’t burden any taxpayer as a result of the help that we seek.”
Shelter staff and supporters stated that they goal is to rehabilitate and prevent such issues as crime and drug abuse, and that they did not understand why it seemed their every request was being met by another roadblock.
In total, members of the audience and council discussed the newly proposed site, the admissions process to the shelter, safety concerns, services, and a host of other topics for over an hour and a half.
One of the biggest points of contention was the process after a denial is given by the shelter due to violent crime.
Representatives of the non-profit pledged to report denials to the New Philadelphia Police Department from now on to prevent any concerns or issues down the road.
They also noted that Superintendent Amy Wentworth with the New Philadelphia City School District has offered support of the newly proposed site.
The matter was taken under advisement by the zoning and annexation committee, with the next scheduled council meeting coming after Christmas.
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