Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An emergency homeless shelter in the Rio Nido Fire Station?!

Should the Rio Nido Fire Station become an emergency homeless shelter for the winter? The Russian River Interfaith Coalition wants us to consider this possibility. If you feel strongly one way or the other, please come to the neighborhood meeting -- especially if you live in or do business in Rio Nido.

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;

    and ...

  • 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?
The folks at Hubert Hall say they can't host a shelter again this year (even though my church hosted a dinner/raffle last year which raised $3000 for creating a shelter there). The people at the Guerneville Veterans Hall also say they can't do it. If these facilities -- with their kitchens, bathrooms, & square footage -- can't handle the upcoming wave of homeless people, then the Rio Nido Fire Station certainly can't.

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?


Anonymous said...

You aren't being an ogre -- the Interfaith crowd is being hypocritical. To begin with, if your church raised $3000 to create a homeless shelter elsewhere, what happened to the money? Secondly, why can't these churches use their own facilities? Secondly, don't we have enough problems with the Rio Inn? Thirdly, the property values of every homeowner on that side of Rio Nido will fall preciptiously the moment this shelter takes shape. With home values taking a huge beating in this area of late, and many homeowners underwater -- that is, paying more in mortgage payments than their homes are worth -- do they have to face this, too?

Are we to be spared nothing?

Don't let them turn Rio Nido into a dumping ground. Can we stop them? YES WE CAN!

Russian River Rattina said...

Dear anonymous, I hope you come to the meeting.

Anonymous said...

I'm right there with ya. This is completely unacceptable. Why CAN'T the Veteran's Hall do this? And because they say they can't why does it immediately fall on us? Uh uh. I'm a liberal, but I left Berkeley partly because of the utter stupidity surrounding the street people, homeless drug addicts and complete dysfunctional losers who benefit from this same stupid "nobility of poverty" ideology. That river park across from Guerneville is the perfect example. Thousands upon thousands of dollars for a brand-new homeless encampment. This isn't going to fly. And yes, I am attending. Screw these Interfaith people. They will not get away with this.

Anonymous said...

Right on! I went to the meeting today adnd the Interfaith Coalition were a NO SHOW! Guess they did not want to answer our questions. No way should the firehouse be used to house the homeless. This will only tempt homeless people to loiter or stay in Rio Nido, again leaving unoccupied property at risk to theft and break ins.

Anonymous said...

Open your eye's, Rio Nido is and has been a dumping ground for a long while now.