The homeless center battle | Arkansas Blog

The homeless center battle

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Neighborhood watchdog Kathy Wells was on hand for Mayor Mark Stodola's tour of the former road machinery business in the East End that he wants to turn into a day center for the homeless. City Director Erma Hendrix was on hand to express her opposition to another shelter in her ward.

Stodola suggested some worries about foot traffic of the homeless to the center would be reduced by use of shuttle buses to bring homeless people from night shelters to the center for day services. The buses won't account for all the traffic, of course. I was thinking this morning that many street people, after a night in Riverfront Park, will stroll through the River Market and Clinton Library Park en route to E. 9th St.

Kathy's report to the Coalition of Greater Little Rock Neighborhoods:

Mayor Mark Stodola this morning led a tour around the vacant brick building at 1421 E. Ninth St. that city officials are considering for use as a day resource center for the homeless.

Dir. Erma Hendrix of Ward 1 immediately declared her opposition, saying she acted on behalf of our community. She said that meant "a fight between us." The mayor replied he had no desire to fight with anyone.

Stodola said this was a practical location, a former probation and parole office, which was near a concentration of the homeless. He said he intended to bus center clients to and from night shelters and other agencies, so there would not be a problem with the homeless walking through surrounding blocks going to and from the facility.

Pres. Kathy Wells of the Coalition of Greater LR Neighborhoods pressed the mayor to assure that any plan for use of the property would include security concerns of the neighbors, keeping in mind those who follow and victimize the homeless, and anyone who becomes vulnerable. Security plans should focus on the residents of the Kathleen Peek Apts. nearby, where persons with mental illness are provided with affordable housing, she said.

Vacant structures could become hangouts for predators, she added, notably the historic William Woodruff House at 1017 E. Eighth. Neighbors report it is unsecured today, and occupied by a dozen street dwellers. A senior city code inspector assured her that he would remedy that problem promptly.

The business is for sale for $789,000, according to David Robinson, the commercial real-estate agent for the property. It has 19,419 square feet, and sits on four acres of mostly paved land. It originally was Little Rock Road Machinery Co., the heavy-equipment sales business of the Wilson family. To get details, contact the agent at 375-3200 or at:
drobinson@flake-kelley.com

Stodola said the asking price was more than the city had ready for the center, so he was asking aid from North Little Rock, which shares in the current center operation, as well as Gov. Mike Beebe, and anyone who might be willing to help.

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