Homeless Shelter? - Not in my Backyard

Nov 14, 2002 03:00 AM EST

EL CAJON, CA. - Mayor Mark Lewis withdraws support for a temporary church run homeless shelter, upon the unanimous pursuit of the City Council in setting an injunction against the camp.

The camp, which began with three people in sleeping bags, grew rapidly to 33 tents housing more than 100 people, including homeless families with up to six children. Consequently, City Attorney Morgan Foley said he would seek a preliminary court injunction for health, safety, noise and other municipal code violations at the St. Alban's Episcopal Church homeless camp.

Three weeks ago, the City Council directed Foley to wait one week before taking action. On the day of the deadline, Mayor Mark Lewis said he supported plans for the church-run shelter. However on November 12, Lewis changed his mind during an open discussion at a City Council meeting.

The meeting convinced Lewis that the shelter would be "visual pollution" and a "business killer in any area." He added that the shelter would help no more than 100 people in the area. Lewis commented that he would rather use motel vouchers to house the city's homeless population instead of waiting through the city's long approval process.

The Rev. John Conrad, rector of St. Alban's opposed the decision noting that any voucher money would dry up quickly while housing 100 people per night. He said he could have the church-run shelter open in two weeks, and that if the council wouldn't approve a shelter at the church, it should provide other property in a more suitable area. Calling the two-hour public hearing "a discussion that needed to be held," Conrad said he would consult his own attorney before taking his next step at St. Alban's.

By Pauline J.
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