Zoning Board Tables Request to Expand SE St. Cloud Homeless Shelter
ST. CLOUD -- After a more than 2 1/2 hour public hearing with nearly 30 speakers, a request to allow a southeast St. Cloud homeless shelter to expand has been tabled.
Homeless Helping Homeless operates the Lincoln Center on Lincoln Avenue Southeast. They were asking to Zoning Board of Appeals to amend their Conditional Use Permit to allow them to go from 20 overnight guests up to 50 with 29 of those being homeless people and the rest staff and volunteers.
The plan includes more secure entrances, a designated nurses office, adding a smoking patio with a privacy fence along the side of the building, and an inside lounge to guests wouldn't need so congregate in the front of the building.
Homeless Helping Homeless Executive Director Harry Fleegel says he acknowledges the shelter has caused challenges for the neighborhood and asked for feedback.
We have consistently responded to any complaints about residents from area businesses. We have built fences, installed the lighting, and the cameras, and added outside security. We are willing to meet with anyone and listen to their comments.
The shelter is currently not in compliance with three of the 13 conditions from the original CUP which was granted about 15 months ago, including not having installed a sprinkler system.
A majority of the public speakers were against the expansion proposal including both business owners and homeowners. Jeremy Frey owns the Lincoln Depot and says his business has suffered since the Lincoln Center opened.
I don't believe that they are currently getting the correct support and help they need to better themselves. It's a place to sleep and repeat. The users of this facility cause problems in the community. We're constantly asking them to leave our property. We've had more police calls in the last year than in the seven previous years I've owned the Lincoln Depot.
There have been 542 police calls made to the Lincoln Center since it opened, which doesn't include the police calls made to the surrounding businesses and homes.
A College of St. Benedict student who is also a volunteer at the Lincoln Center is one of the handful of people who spoke out in favor of the project.
If they shut down, these people are still going to be around. These people still need help. This is a mental health crisis. This is an addiction crisis.
Most of the homeowners and business owners who spoke out against an expansion say they are not anti-homeless, but that this particular shelter is being poorly run and mismanaged. Justin Quinn lives in Southeast St. Cloud
I've seen fires. I've seen people sitting on the side of the white fence that has been put up, drinking. Last week I was at Casey's and someone came in, stole merchandise, and left.
Fleegel says since they opened, they have served 140 people with 41 of them being placed in permanent housing. He says the residents they serve are considered the most difficult ones to place.
Fleegel says the expansion is needed because they are turning away about five people each night.
The request to amend the CUP will be brought up again at next month's Zoning Board meeting after city staff has had a chance to address some of the concerns brought up.