ST. CLOUD -- The homeless shelter in southeast St. Cloud was again the topic of a lengthy discussion during Monday night's St. Cloud City Council meeting.

Homeless Helping Homeless operates the Lincoln Center on Lincoln Avenue Southeast.  Executive Director Harry Fleegel withdrew his appeal of the Zoning Board of Appeals decision earlier this year, which requires one staff member for every two overnight guests.

Despite the withdrawal, councilmember George Hontos brought up a number of questions for city staff and administration.

He says the Lincoln Center still has a lot of problems that neighbors and area businesses have been dealing with including increased costs to operate, loss of business, and a rise in crime in the neighborhood.

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Hontos asked what specific fines have been given to the Lincoln Center.  Community Development Director Matt Glaesman says they were given a $750 citation in June, however, they have appealed that citation.

Glaesman says there are down to the required maximum of nine overnight guests until the sprinkler system is installed and functioning, which is supposed to begin in early August. Once the sprinkler system is installed and the upgrades to the facility have been completed the shelter can move to its new rules of 25 overnight guests as long as they have at least 12 staff members.

Glaesman says the new bathrooms and shower facilities could be up and running within the next 10 days.

Hontos also asked about the issue of residents being asked to self-trespass a person on their property.  Police Chief Blair Anderson says that the issue has been misinterpreted.  He says trespassing is a level four priority, which is low.  He says most of the time by the police arrive the person in question is already gone. Mayor Dave Kleis says this is not a change in policy for the city.

Hontos asked the question about what is the city's plan moving forward when it comes to homelessness in the city.  Glaesman says the city has revisited and updated the policy consistently about every 10 years going back at least 40 years.

Councilmember Mike Conway says the fact that the Lincoln Center is a low barrier facility there are very few or no restrictions for staying at the facility, which is why it has so many more issues than the other homeless shelters in the city.  Councilmember Carol Lewis says the city should impose rules on the shelter so they can control the situation, however, that was not part of the amended CUP approved by the ZBA.

Councilmember Dave Masters says the Lincoln Center opened 15 months ago on a shoestring budget, and now that it is starting to get the grant dollars to operate he's expecting it to be a better-established facility and more up to par with some of the other homeless shelters in town.

Council President Jeff Goerger says it all comes down to the poor management of the facility up to this point, not the police response, and not the administrative policies.

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