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Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 11:37pm
El Paso, Texas (KDBC) — It was standing room only Wednesday night at a community meeting in El Paso, as a neighborhood learned the El Paso Rescue Mission might be moving in next door.
The crowd was fairly evenly divided with supporters and opponents of the plan. The Rescue Mission hopes to build a facility on a piece of property currently for sale on the 900 block of East Wyoming in Central El Paso, right off of Interstate 10.
The shelter is being forced to move in early 2016 to make way for a highway expansion of Loop 375. That means splitting the shelter into two parts. An apartment complex with longer term housing would be built on Wyoming, while emergency shelters would be built somewhere on the city's south side.
Many of the opponents in attendance at Wednesday's meeting are worried about potential crime and associated problems the Rescue Mission would bring to their neighborhood. Others just feel there are better uses for the property.
"That should be the location for the new Chamber of Commerce, the new location for a new Convention and Visitors Bureau," said neighborhood resident Brian Kanof, citing the property's visible location right off of Interstate 10 near downtown.
City Representative Cortney Niland decided to hold the meeting to solicit input on the plan. She and others have proposed other locations, but the Rescue Mission's CEO says this property is the best fit, at least so far.
"People who are homeless in any city tend to gravitate toward downtown," said Blake Barrow. "The city did offer us some other proposed locations where they would like us to be. I studied those and got back to them and said no, these are not appropriate," he added.
Blake Barrows says residents on Wyoming would have to be referred to the complex. That means no folks simply coming in from off the street. Most would be women and children or young men aging out of foster care.
"They're talking about the criminal element, about getting mugged at night. This is not the population he's trying to put in this area," said Carol Bohle, with the El Paso Coalition for the Homeless.
However, it wasn't enough to convince some in the neighborhood. Residents vowing to fight the shelter every step of the way.