Washington City Council Chambers

The public will have a chance to weigh in on — and get information  — on a proposed homeless shelter in Washington. 

Washington Police Chief Ed Menefee, with the Franklin County Homeless Task Force (HTF), said the public forum will be a discussion on a homeless shelter in the community.

The forum will be Tuesday, April 16, at 6:30 p.m. in the city council chambers at Washington City Hall.

“We want to discuss homelessness in the community and tell people about the shelter we intend to build and get input,” Menefee said.

“The main goal is to get information out and show this is not a bad thing but a worthy cause,” he told The Missourian. “We want to help those who are destitute and need help.”

The proposed location would be 10 Franklin Ave., the former doctors office that had housed Dr. Brunworth and Dr. Baker, and prior to that Dr. Farrell. 

The building is zoned C-1 limited commercial and in order to open a facility that would allow for overnight stays, it must be zoned C-2 general commercial, the same zoning as hotels and motels.

Menefee invited anyone with concerns about the proposed shelter to attend Tuesday’s forum. 

“Any negatives that people would like to address, we ask them to come to the forum to get the information — bring your questions with you so we can answer them,” he said.

Rezoning

Menefee added that a request to rezone the property will be in front of the Washington Planning and Zoning Commission May 13. The city council would then likely review the rezoning May 20.

In January, Menefee told The Missourian an anonymous donor pledged a “considerable” amount of money to fund a shelter, or similar facility.

Menefee stated the funds could provide a structure for homeless people to gain resources, stay for a time, and learn basic skills so they have a better chance of finding employment.

“This facility would offer a hand-up, not a handout,” he commented. “It would be for singles and families.”

Menefee explained plans call for housing at the shelter, as well as a place to get homeless people served or medical help.

The shelter would offer a place to direct those in need to job opportunities, GEDs, and obtaining documents such as birth certificates and Social Security cards necessary for employment.

“They would work toward establishing their own permanent residency at some point in time,” Menefee added.

He noted that the shelter would serve homeless people throughout Franklin County.

Organizers have been reaching out to neighboring property owners to explain the intent of the facility.

Menefee noted that the building would have to be renovated to meet the needs of those who would be serviced there.

Numbers

In January, Menefee said the HTF determined there are 32 families who are homeless in the county. He added that ranges from individuals, to parents with children.

He explained that could mean they are living out in the elements, living in their car, or couch hopping, which is more prevalent for younger people.

Menefee said that also includes people on the verge of homelessness.

By taking inventory of the homeless population, the task force is eligible for grants that had not been available in previous years because there was not a count of the homeless in the county. The numbers are then submitted to the state.

About HTF

The Homeless Task Force meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 10 a.m. in the lower level of the Washington Public Safety Building, 301 Jefferson St., Washington.

Individuals or families who are at risk of becoming homeless or are already homeless and would like assistance are asked to call or text the task force at 636-221-1119.