October 4, 2013
There is a public conversation pending that will be uncomfortable for those who provoke it.
A group of Lumberton residents, some financially inspired, yes, but most of whom are civically concerned, is lining up against the construction of a new homeless shelter and soup kitchen on Second Street. In doing so, they will be accused of not caring about the less fortunate among us, a charge that will evaporate with a closer examination that would reveal them to be a charitable crowd.
The new shelter is needed to accommodate the growing number of vagrants who have been dumped onto our streets by the sorry economy, secondly, but firstly this nation’s shameless treatment of our mentally ill — an Our View for a different day.
The Lumberton Christian Care Center has for decades used a First Street building to provide a temporary bed and a hot meal to the homeless. Business has been booming.
The First Street building, however, is falling down, and the city has plans for a new shelter. A city-owned lot on Second Street where the Buckeye plant stood before it was destroyed by fire has been identified as the spot for the construction of the 8,400-square-foot building, which would be paid for entirely with grant money. But the lot is close to the plaza, the centerpiece for activity in downtown Lumberton, and is also next door to the Exploration Station, a children’s museum.
Critics say that such prime real estate should not be used for a homeless center, and instead should be reserved for construction of anything that would inspire economic development in the downtown area. They say the homeless shelter will depress property values and be a disincentive for anyone who wants to invest in the future of downtown Lumberton.
Theirs are good points.
We aren’t sure why the Second Street lot was picked for the homeless center, except that it is city owned and would not cost any additional taxpayer dollars. If there was a conversation about why the Second Street lot makes sense, and why it would not be contrary to efforts to reinvigorate the downtown area, we either missed or don’t remember it.
We believe that the public conversation will begin on Wednesday during the City Council’s Policy workshop that will be held in advance of its regular monthly meeting on Oct. 14.
We hope that advocates on both sides will remember everyone wants the same things — to make sure our homeless are provided for, and to protect the future of economic development in this critical part of town.
The direction of the journey going forward should be determined by how these goals can best be achieved — and not by personalities or emotions.