Controversy is brewing over a transitional home for the homeless. The Jefferson County Planning Commission will decide whether to approve this 22-person group home at a meeting Thursday night.
This group home, called Haven of Hope, is meant to transition its residents from homelessness to self-sufficiency. It would be the only facility of its kind between Bonne Terre and St. Louis. Although many Jefferson County residents applaud its mission, some say it doesn't belong at the proposed site.
It's an old white house that sits just off Interstate 55 and Imperial Main Street, in unincorporated Jefferson County. It was once a funeral home, then an event space with a live cougar. For the past 15 years, it sat empty. Now, advocates for the homeless are hoping the historic house will serve a new purpose.
"We do have a homeless problem in Jefferson County, we know that,” says licensed psychologist Jane Dycus, who serves as treasurer for Haven of Hope.
The non-profit plans to get homeless people on their feet again, by providing necessary life skills & training, from resume help and budgeting lessons to cooking and parenting classes. Residents would live at the house for several months.
Dycus says all residents would be properly vetted: "We do a very intense interview process, and then we do a complete background check."
Still, Jefferson County residents have concerns; namely, the impact on property values, the home's proximity to several schools, safety and loitering, and a lack of resources in the unincorporated community, particularly a dedicated police department.
If the permit is denied, Haven of Hope will look for another property. But Dycus hopes that won't be necessary. She says.
"Where do they want it?" she asks. "Where is going to be an acceptable place, out in the middle of nowhere? I mean we want these people to assimilate back into the real world, and this is the real world. And you know, what would Jesus have done? We need to take care of these people."
Advocates and opponents for the proposed home will have a chance to be heard at Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting. Then the Planning Commission will submit its recommendation. The Jefferson County Council has the final say on approving the permit for the project.