The Columbus Township Trustee’s Office and Love Chapel have received approval to establish a homeless shelter on the city’s east side.
The Columbus Board of Zoning Appeals approved a zoning variance during a Tuesday evening meeting to allow the shelter in a township-owned building at 421 South Mapleton Street. Elizabeth Kestler, with Love Chapel, says that when the building is completely ready, 35 beds will be available as an entry point for emergency housing for those needing shelter.
Kestler says the building, to be named Brighter Days Housing, measures approximately 3,500 square-feet. She noted that there has been a lot of support for this project, as this area has been in need of a homeless shelter for quite some time. A number of neighbors disagreed with that assessment during Tuesday’s meeting. A number of residents spoke during the public comment section of the meeting to raise concerns about the possibility for increased drug and criminal activity, as well as diminished property values.
First District Councilman Dascal Bunch spoke on behalf of many residents in his district who are opposed to the shelter. He says that business owners in the area are also concerned about how a shelter will affect their businesses. Bunch also said it would be a good idea for a public session to include area residents to get their thoughts before the project moves forward.
Janet Gross, a business owner with a location near the Love Chapel, says she is also against the shelter. She says that a similar shelter on Cherry Street has brought an increase in crime and drug activity, including discarded hypodermic needles. She adds that the lack of sidewalks in east Columbus and the city’s efforts to revitalize the State Street area should also disqualify the site as a homeless shelter.
Other residents expressed concerns that the site would not be acceptable for a homeless shelter due to its proximity with Pence Street Park. By law, registered sex offenders would not be allowed to utilize a shelter so close to a park. That means that a section of the homeless community would still go without service.
The Board of Zoning Appeals voted unanimously to approve the variance.