Mixed emotions on Rescue Mission closure

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Sara Story - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Dozens of homeless men in Tyler will be forced back to the streets, following a decision by the city council Wednesday.

The East Texas Rescue Mission expanded and renovated their building last fall, but the Mission did not get permission or building permits before making changes to their facility.

All seven city council members denied the East Texas Rescue Mission's request for a special-use permit. The permit would have allowed the Mission to stay open, giving them six months to correct building code violations.

"The issue for me was a credibility issue," said district 1 council man Sam Mezayek. "When you violate the building codes, in doing that with the expansion, you put your people at risk as well."

Tony Chung is the director of the Rescue Mission. One room was expanded in the fall, adding 48 additional beds to the building. The city says there were additional renovations made to the inside of the mission -  the changes violated city zoning codes. Chung says he was willing to work with the city and correct the problems, but Wednesday's decision leaves him no chance.

"At the end of the day, which is today, I've done all I can do," said Chung. "The doors to the Mission will close, [sending] more men out on the streets. There's nothing I can do about it."

The city council meeting turned into an opportunity for neighbors and businesses in the area to express their opinion's "for" and "against" the existence of the Mission.

"I know that people like this, the hopeless people, the homeless people, the people that polite society doesn't want to look at," said Jim Smith, a neighbor. "These are the people our Lord reached out to and I am going to wear his name. I can't do any less."

"I really think that none of you here today would enjoy the Rescue Mission in your neighborhood," said Luther Glass- neighbor

"I have seen these men here be nothing but respectful, kind, helpful," said Laura Aiken, a volunteer for the Rescue Mission.

"If he would not have broke the law and he would have not done what he did then we would not be here today," said a neighbor in opposition to the Mission.

The city says they will work with the Rescue Mission and grant them a period of time to move everyone out.

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