The Gateway to Hope homeless shelter has requested a one-year extension in their permit to continue helping the homeless in Tyler, but some neighbors are asking city council to require them to move.
The shelter, called Gateway to Hope, requested that the city council consider approving a Special Use Permit renewal to allow for the operation of a homeless day resource room for a one-year period of time.
The owner of the homeless shelter, which is located at 601 E. Valentine, said they've seen 9,000 guests and have helped many find jobs, and should be allowed to continue to do so.
The city asked neighbors their feelings regarding the shelter remaining open in that location, and there was a 10.75 percent protest.
Members on the Gateway to Hope board told the council they might be being blamed for things they have nothing to do with, such as throwing cigarettes into neighbors lawns.
A gentleman who owns a restaurant across the street from the facility told the city council he believes the organization should look for a new location so they can continue the good work they are doing.
He said the businesses are suffering because of the various issues that are occurring. He said he has lost 60 percent of his business after the organization opened. He said the biggest problem they've had is loitering on his property and people asking for food and money.
He said he held a meeting with neighbors who all agree that after 4 p.m. loitering becomes a problem. He showed the council photos of trash left behind an people loitering.
The council asked if he complained to the organization when these problems arose. The man said he did speak to a director about the issues.
The man said his wife has asked him to move from the area because of the economic hardships they are now facing, but he has used all of his life savings to keep the restaurant open. He wants Gateway to Hope to move to another location.
The owner of Gateway to Hope said that numerous solutions to the complaints have been created, such as the installation of security cameras and placement of a fence. Also, a Spanish language interpreter has been enlisted at the shelter to communicate with the neighbors.
She also said that the shelter was not made aware of any issues and had no idea neighbors had problems with the facility.
Other neighbors claim that after the facility closes, the homeless hang out in their yard, leaving trash and cigarettes on their property. One family also said they can no longer sit on their porch, as the homeless people approach them asking for money. They said they did indeed approach the facility and they have contacted the police, as well.
The owner of the shelter said the organization has tried to reach that family, and they have spoken with those who come to the organization, asking them not to smoke near the neighbors' homes.
The organization's business manager said she has been with Gateway to Hope since its inception and said the neighbors never let them know of any criticism, and that she will continue to try to work with the neighbors to address any other issues.
A homeless man spoke on behalf of the organization and said if it were not for Gateway to Hope, he doesn't know where he would be.
Another homeless man spoke, telling the council that there is an obvious communication barrier that needs to be worked out, however he believes the organization is making a difference in may lives and needs to be remain open.
Council called in Tyler Police Chief Gary Swindle who said the crime has actually decreased in that area since the opening of the organization.
He said it wasn't a significant decrease, but it drop by one or two cases.
Chief Swindle did say they patrol the area.
The council suggested that those who are opposed to the extension get to know the officers who patrol that area.
The chief said he does not have any police report that directly relates to Gateway of Hope.
However, Tyler Planning and Zoning committee has heard their concerns.
Council members acknowledged that there are cultural and communication challenges.
Council members said these challenges need to be worked out and it is not going to happen overnight, but a resolution could be made if the people involved will work together.
A motion was made to approve the one-year extension. Council approved the motion.