Everyone agrees Clarksdale needs a homeless shelter, but no one wants it in their neighborhood.
Brenda Field met with the Clarksdale Board of Mayor and Commissioners Monday to explain her plans for a homeless shelter at 425 Yazoo that has prompted a petition by homeowner in the neighborhood who have major concerned about the shelter.
Brandon Thomas said he had about 150 signatures asking the city not to rezone the property for a homeless shelter and not to give $10,000 that is has already been earmarked for the project.
“We have no problem with a homeless shelter, but we do have a problem with the location,” said Thomas. “We have talked with the city and it is still a no-go.”
Thomas said he felt there were other locations more suitable for the homeless shelter. The community has also cited concerns about panhandling, security and the affect of the shelter on property values.
Fields, a lifelong resident of Clarkdale, said she has been working on this project, which will be called The Change Place, for over two years. She said the property has been purchased and they are moving ahead with solving a problem and filling a need in Clarksdale.
“We plan to have them for between 28- and 30-days and during that time they will get spiritual counseling, help finding a job and help finding a place to live,” said Fields. “We have not hidden this, but some of the things they are now saying about this shelter are not true.”
Fields said it will be monitored by security inside and outside. Patrons with mental or drug problems will be referred to other agencies and facilities. She said there will also be transportation to help the homeless get healthcare, medicine and trips to job interviews.
Fields said she is a licensed to assist in alcohol and drug rehabilitation and there are many rules and requirements to running a homeless shelter.
She said the current location is near a boarding house, which is critical resource in getting the homeless to transition from the street to a home.
Fields said she has worked with the city to find the perfect spot. She said she is crushed that her efforts have suddenly met so much resistance.
Ward 2 Commissioner Ken Murphey said he hopes Fields and the neighborhood can find common ground.
“I understand the neighborhood’s concerns,” said Murphey, whose ward the homeless shelter is in. “I also understand we have a homeless problem in Clarksdale. My constituents don’t want it. My hope is we can get this worked out.”
Ward 1 Commissioner Bo Plunk said he was concerned property had already been purchased before the project had been cleared by the Planning and Zoning Commission and the city.
“This is a hurdle and I think you could have saved yourself a lot of trouble if you had done it a little differently,” said Plunk. “The process requires it to go before the planning commission and they will vote on it. Then it comes to us and we can either vote for what they recommend or not. As it stands right now I can’t vote for it.”
Ward 3 Commissioner Willie Turner and Ward 4 Commissioner Ed Seals both were non-committal saying only they “would do what was right.”
Mayor Chuck Espy, who only votes in the event of a tie vote among commissioners was also non-committal.
No action was taken by the city and it will now go before the Planning and Zoning Commission for their decision.