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Homeless shelter supporters take their case to New Phila Council

| December 14, 2022
Attorney Josh O'Farrell speaks to New Philadelphia City Council Monday on behalf of Friends of the Homeless.

NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (December 13, 2022) – The fate of a new homeless shelter rests with City Council.

Friends of the Homeless representatives, supporters, employees, neighbors, and former shelter residents on Monday implored city officials to allow the construction of a new facility behind Preach the Word Ministries on state Route 39, about a half mile east of the current shelter. They were told city council will consider that request, likely in January.

Comments from shelter supporters included:

“We have a responsibility to love our neighbor…Let us not turn away the homeless from New Philadelphia.”

“I’m only one block from the homeless shelter. I have never once had any trouble there.”

“I see a family atmosphere with people trying to help each other out.”

“Right after I left rehab I went over to the homeless shelter. They gave me all the tools that I needed to start my life over again. Today, I am 18 months sober and today I have my own apartment.”

City Law Director Marvin Fete criticized the plans to build a homeless shelter in a residential area a few blocks from East Elementary School. He says he supports the shelter’s work and has no problem with the people who stay there. However, he is concerned about the homeless people whose applications are denied.

“Because the people that are turned away … are pretty serious. We’re talking sex offenders, people with violent criminal backgrounds, arson. Those are pretty serious offenses, and I don’t know what happens to them when they get turned away,” Fete said.

Attorney Josh O’Farrell spoke on behalf of Friends of the Homeless. He said they’re not asking for tax dollars, just permission to build. He took issue with Fete’s criticism, and they argued a bit.

O’Farrell: “We don’t turn anybody loose on the streets.”

Fete: “Nonetheless, they do end up on our streets.”

O’Farrell: “They’re already on the streets, Mr. Fete, so your characterization, again, is improper.”

Fete: “Were they drawn here by the promise of shelter and turned away?”

Fete cited examples of criminals he and the police have dealt with who were rejected by the homeless shelter. O’Farrell said it wasn’t fair to focus on that.

“Those examples pale in comparison to the success stories of local residents who have utilized this shelter for good,” O’Farrell said. “You cannot allow those examples to color this project in a negative fashion. It’s unfair. It’s illogical.”

The shelter has at least one supporter on City Council – Kelly Ricklick, who said Monday’s crowd was the largest of the year. “It’s Christmastime. I sure hope someone will open up their damn heart and support you instead of finding a way to tell you, ‘No, and there’s no place in this town for you.’”

Shelter representatives had thought they would present plans to the city’s Zoning Appeals Board Tuesday. Instead, they will present their plans to Council’s Zoning and Annexation Committee at a January meeting.

Fete suggested a different location – the former Twilight Drive-in Movie Theater on East High Avenue out past the airport. Realtor Jeff Mathias said that’s on the outskirts of town and more expensive than the property offered by a local couple.

“What Mr. and Mrs. DeMatio have is a site that is $200,000 less than that and is closer to town, because we have our government services in town… (It’s) only like three blocks from the county courthouse where a lot of our social services are rendered.”

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