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Forum editorial: Homeless plan spat is vacuous

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The uprising in Moorhead over placement of a supportive housing building for homeless individuals and families reveals that in the objecting neighborhood “Minnesota nice” is a sham. Secondly, the official response to the neighborhood protest, and to project sponsors who have gone the extra mile to explain their plans, reveals a City Council where pander has supplanted leadership.

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How can anyone with even half a load of common sense come to

any other conclusions? When residents of the neighborhood described potential tenants of the building as “substandard people,” no one in a leadership position challenged that offensive and inaccurate insult. When a council member said there is no need for the building because there are no homeless people in the city, his colleagues mumbled a little but essentially let him get away with it. Have they been under a rock in the tonier parts of the city? Have they not taken stock of the homeless population in Moorhead shelters and churches, especially in winter?

When told that homeless veterans would benefit from the project, a neighborhood complainer said it wasn’t needed because “we’ll take care of our veterans.” What a crock. The fact veterans are homeless confirms “we” are not taking care of veterans.

Churches United for the Homeless has cobbled together a viable and pragmatic housing option for people in need. When up and running, the apartment building will reduce the homeless population because one cannot be homeless if one is in a home. Additionally, the facility will include services to help previously homeless people into settled, normal lives – like their better-off neighbors.

And one element in the debate that has been lost: Most of the people who can benefit from the project are the “working poor.” That is, they are not vagrants or street criminals. They are trying to keep body, soul and family together, even while working in low-paying jobs. Reliable housing will change their lives for the better, and in time that evolution will make Moorhead a better city.

Property values? Several studies from Minnesota cities found home values were not negatively affected by supportive housing for homeless people. In fact, most of them showed property values improved.

Finally, the most egregious canard of all is that rapists and assorted thugs will threaten the neighborhood. There is no credible evidence – none – from similar developments of an increase in crime of any kind.

The parcel’s zoning allows the supportive facility, and funding is all but secure. Churches United can go ahead with the building without council approval and without regard to nonsensical objections. That’s what should happen.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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