Homeless shelter’s fate on line tonight
WCLO's Beth Wheelock reports on the concerns from city staff.
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The Janesville Plan Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. today in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Janesville City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.
JANESVILLE City staff recommends the city not allow a proposed homeless shelter for men in the Fourth Ward.
The plan commission meets tonight and could decide the issue.
The commission could deny the petition for a conditional-use permit, approve it, approve it with conditions or delay a decision. The commission’s decision is final.
A memo by Gale Price, city building and development services director, seems to side with a number of neighbors who have described a variety of negative acts they believe were committed by men who frequented the building when it operated as a homeless shelter last spring.
Neighbors reported thefts from vehicles, clients making inappropriate comments to women, strangers on neighbors’ property and defecation in people’s yards.
The staff recommendation says in part that the shelter would diminish the value and enjoyment of neighbors’ properties and would impede normal development.
The staff finding does say that the site at 407 W. Van Buren St. is adequate or could be made adequate in other respects, such as parking and amenities such as showers.
The 2,040-square-foot building is the former Knights of Columbus Hall and former Boys & Girls Club. It is surrounded by low-density residential development.
Mike Tearman has operated a daytime refuge for homeless men since early this year. In April, he started allowing men to sleep overnight, according to the memo. The city ordered in June that sleepovers cease because the building did not meet code requirements for a “residential shelter care facility.”
Tearman is proposing the shelter with Christian-based programming and room for 10 men to spend the night.
Scott Meyer, agent for building owner SLMHR LLC, has applied for the permit.
The memo notes that Tearman proposes a program run by New Life Assembly of God, but the church’s pastor told a staff member that New Life is “in no way … associated with Mr. Tearman’s homeless shelter.”
The memo also takes Tearman to task for proposed shelter rules that would not allow intoxicated persons to be served, even though a Janesville police officer reported that Tearman told him that many of the clients are intoxicated and that Tearman has no problem with that.
“In staff’s opinion, this is unacceptable and inappropriate within an established residential setting,” the memo states.
Tearman did not return calls seeking comment.
“I’m hoping the plan commission will deny the conditional-use permit because I would not like to see us go back to the negative criminal activity that we had in the neighborhood when it was open before for overnight service to the men,” said neighbor Burdette Erickson.
“When the shelter was closed by the city, nearly all of the problems that we had ceased or didn’t occur very often.”