On Thursday, April 17, 40 to 50 men, women and children will learn from the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals whether their home at Hope Community Center will have to shut its doors.
For a little more than four months, the Hope Community Center, run by Josh Bare with his father, Harold, has housed the homeless in a two-building complex in the 10th and Page neighborhood. After an anonymous complaint from a neighbor in late February, Hope was cited for a zoning violation for operating a shelter in a residential district. The city granted a reprieve until this month’s appeal.
“We consider ourselves to be a friend of the city and we want to work with anybody we can work with to help people,” says Pastor Harold Bare, who runs a homeless shelter with his son at the Hope Community Center.
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“We are pleased that the owners of the Hope Center are following the normal processes that allow proper zoning to be applied for that specific property,” says city spokesman Ric Barrick via e-mail. “We appreciate their good intentions, but the neighborhood should also be able to have a voice in new ventures like shelters for the homeless. [Regardless of] the outcome of the BZA appeal, we are working to open new opportunities for housing those without a place to live.”
The extended grace period ensured a temporary place for the 30 or so men who sleep in one of the Center’s small auditoriums—the second building houses a handful of women and a few children. But they are a mere fraction of the area’s homeless population.
According to figures released by the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless (TJACH), there were 292 homeless people on January 30, when a census was taken of all the shelters and social service agencies that serve the homeless.
“We are still trying to reach perfection on counting who’s out there,” Cornelius says.
Regardless, TJACH’s figures show that the area’s homeless population increased by almost 50 people from last year. Most disconcerting, the number of children doubled from 22 in 2007 to 46 this year. Six of those stayed at Hope.
If Hope must close its doors, its homeless will be back out on the streets, with another hurdle in their path. Maybe they’ll find a friend’s couch, an abandoned house or car, or just sleep in the field behind the center. The Bares hope not.
“We consider ourselves to be a friend of the city and we want to work with anybody we can work with to help people,” says Harold Bare. “That’s the bottom line.”
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