The meeting will be held at 12:30pm, Saturday November 29th, at the Rio Nido Fire Station.
Personally, I think this is a terrible idea for the following reasons:
- The Fire Station is too small & has no bathroom (though there's a small one in the adjacent post office) or kitchen facilities;
- Rio Nido has few services & amenities & is two miles from downtown Guerneville (though the Interfaith Coalition plans to hire a bus to shuttle people back & forth each morning & evening);
- The presence of a homeless shelter & the resulting concentration of people with substance abuse & mental health issues would be extremely disruptive to our neighborhood & possibly unsafe for the high percentage of vulnerable young children & senior citizens who live in the immediate vicinity of the Fire Station;
- Oh, yeah, as I forgot to mention when I first posted this ... what happens if there's a fire? & where would we put all of the fire fighting gear?
I spoke with a couple of people who are involved with the Interfaith Coalition. They've assured me that the hours will be limited, that the shelter will be managed & supervised by qualified personnel, & that a bus will bring the people here at night & take them back downtown in the morning. They also informed me that they've exhausted all other possible options & that the Rio Nido Fire Station is their last hope.
I feel like I'm being a heartless ogre, since without an emergency shelter, some of these folks could freeze to death. But as a home owner & the protective mother of a 6-year-0ld girl, I really don't want the mentally ill & substance abusing people who camp out beneath the Guerneville Bridge all year long to be imported en masse to a facility which is only a few yards from my house! I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way, since there are at least 10 other children in the immediate vicinity.
I'm not the only one who feels that constant proximity to drug users with mental issues is unwholesome for young children: Even my fellow congregants at our Guerneville Community Church -- who passionately advocate for the homeless -- admit that we can't host the shelter in our church because the Guerneville Head Start preschool is located on the property.
On the one hand, I do believe that we should take care of people going through hard times. High rents, foreclosures, unemployment, & health issues have caused many members of our community to lose their homes ... or be on the verge of losing their homes. On the other hand, I do not think our community should necessarily participate in enabling drug addiction, crime & vandalism amongst the chronically homeless.
I also don't understand why the Interfaith Coalition regards the Rio Nido Fire Station as the only possible option. There are two properties in downtown Guerneville which appear to be unoccupied: (1) The church next to River to Coast Childcare Services across from the Veteran's Hall by Church & Mill Streets; and (2) The old, gray bank building on Main & Church Streets. Why can't we have the shelter in one of these places?