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Thread: Homeless shelters

  1. #1

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    Homeless shelters

    I am looking for some examples of zoning ordinance regulations/use standards for homeless shelters.

    Also, would you include shelters for domestic, substance abuse in the same category as homeless shelters?

    How do you handle emergency shelter situations under zoning codes such as warming and cooling centers that open only during certain temperature extremes and may be at locations such as churches?

    Please give me some arguements as to why not to require special exception approval for a warming/cooling center that is open only certain hours for emergency situations.

    I appreciate anyones help on these issues.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    We treat them as a quasi public use. A conditional use permit is required which means that they are allowed as long as any detrimental impact can be reasonably mitigated.

  3. #3

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    We basically wrote our zoning code to steer a planned local shelter to a site that they were negotiating to buy. We allow them only in an Industrial Zone somehwat distant from sensitive uses (i.e., schools) but close to the County Social Services complex. Very specific site was in mind.

    We still have an older existing shelter that I guess is grandfathered in.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Big Owl's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WadeBurke
    ...How do you handle emergency shelter situations under zoning codes such as warming and cooling centers that open only during certain temperature extremes and may be at locations such as churches?...
    We’ve struggled with what is acceptable for churches to do as customary accessory uses and what isn’t. Here churches are allowed as permitted uses in every zoning district. So the way we treat homeless shelter is only if there paying equivalent is permitted in that district, such as a boarding house or long term hotel/motel. We treat soup kitchen much the same.

  5. #5
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    zoning use classification for homeless shelters

    Our zoning ordinance currently treats homeless shelters as hotel/motel, but an amendment is being proposed such that they will fall under the use classification of group care facilities, which makes them subject to a minimum spacing requirement between facilities. Does anyone have a zoning ordinance that has a separate, specific use classification for shelters, and can you direct me to a link to the ordinance?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I am going to add to the question and ask what regulations do cities have to prevent homeless shelters from becoming a deterrent for development in the surrounding area. In Grand Rapids, there are two shelters and low income apartments in an area that is perfect for redevelopment. However while the rest of the city is booming, this section of town is dwindling as store fronts stay vacant and developers have no interest in vacant lots. The only factor that can be contributed is the homeless shelters and their perception since development is very active within two blocks in all directions.
    Invest in the things today, that provide the returns tomorrow.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    From a political perspective, I would say that no matter what rules you come up with, be prepared to have some very upset folks yelling and screaming and calling you names. Even if you don't think you have homeless advocates in your community, if you write rules that can be in any way perceieved as being anti-homeless, they will come out of the woodwork. By the same token, if you write very strict rules that say homeless shelters can only be in heavy industrial areas with a razor wire fense and guard towers to keep the homeless in, there are still going to be someone from a subdivision five miles away yelling at you that you're ruining their property values and condemning the children to molestation. Not much you can do about it but you should be prepared mentally for the fight. They want an emotional reaction from you because it makes you look bad and will help them defeat whatever zoning or legislative changes you are trying to get passed.

    As to michaelskis's question, I would say you need to have a very strong anti-loitering law. I live across the street from the best shelter in Atlanta and they are almost no trouble. About half a mile away is the worst shelter and it causes non-stop problems. The difference between the two facilities is that one only allows help to those who come in and spend at least the day there (and they would prefer a long term stay so whatever problem led the person to be on the street to be dealt with). You can't just drop in for a sandwich and then go panhandle the rest of the day for beer or drug money. The other shelter and all the surrounding area for several blocks in each direction are pretty much homeless property and you must pay a toll to pass through. And even if you do so, criminal behavior is still common. A shelter that does just enough to keep people alive but does nothing to get them off the streets ends up destroying the neighborhood and makes life harder for the good shelters because the public becomes hardened against the homeless and ends up mentally putting them all in the same category. If you can regulate the hours of the food service, require all food to be consumed onsite, and have strongly enforced anti-loitering laws, you hopefully can make it so that only the good shelters are able to operate. Once again, just remember whatever you do, you are going to end up being labeled satan by someone.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  8. #8
    Member
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    zoning for homeless shelters

    Thanks. In answer to michaelskis, what tool do we have...in our case it's a 2,500 foot minimum spacing requirement between facilities and since the existing shelters are already within that limit, they can't expand without getting a reasonable accommodation. Likewise no new shelter can go within that limit without a reasonable accommodation.

    We do have a (weak) anti-loitering law, and the police are enforcing pretty strongly near our "worst" shelter, because of recent conflicts between the shelter and nearby businesses. I say it's our worse shelter because it accepts the least compliant folks. And that shelter wants/needs to expand, or we're going to have an additional 60-70 persons unsheltered this winter. I guess my real question is, will it do us any good to have a specific use classifcation of "homeless shelters" as opposed to categorizing them with group homes or motels or whatever? And if it's a benefit to have a separate category, what does it help you to do? If it helps by allowing us to impose certain requirements, what should those requirements be?

  9. #9
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Way the hell OT: when the next hurricane hits the panhandle, I'll be running a homeless shelter from my house. My boss, his wife, their animals, Rumpy, his bride-to-be, and their animals, and perhaps one of my planners will be homeless in my house. Don't think the city's zoning ordinances would impact me. I got juice and a badge. Seriously, I got a badge. I'm an "essential worker."

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