We Start Spreading the News – Old First Wants to Build Again

We Start Spreading the News – Old First Wants to Build Again

This was the week we began taking word of our development plans outside the bounds of our own community, beyond the four walls of our church…

It’s a necessary early step in this project, building sufficient broad-based support to weather the inevitable push-back from others who will not want housing for formerly homeless people in Old City. There will also need to be public meetings around our requests for zoning and variances: we want to have organized sufficiently that we have supporters who turn out for those meetings.

We are beginning with the area religious community. We spoke with the priest and administrator at St. Augustine’s on Tuesday, and on Wednesday night their parish council voted that St. Augustine’s was supporting our plans. We presented to the minister at St. George’s United Methodist on Thursday. He will be taking a recommendation of support for approval by his Church Council and then to his whole congregation in February. We meet with the Building Committee of Christ Church on Monday evening. Meetings with Arch Street Meeting and with Mikveh Israel are in the works. So far, these communities gathered around mission commitments similar to ours — and also often already partners with us in outreach — are very enthusiastic about our desire to create permanent homes for the homeless.

Pray hard that all our meetings are so friendly and positive! They probably cannot be, but, pray that we are up to the discussions whatever they turn out to involve.

On Wednesday, the city’s Office of Development Services organized a round-table of sorts for us. It’s a practice the city undertakes to support development projects often quite larger than ours. It was a good sign of support that they convened this table for us. (Just as our earlier meeting with the Department of Homeless Services was very promising.) In addition to Kathy, Michael and the staff of Community Ventures and the architects, there were representatives from Development Services, Historic Preservation, the Zoning Board, L & I, and Councilman Squilla’s office. While it again impressed on Michael how many complicated steps and players there are in a development project like this, he also noted how “do-able” and in fact “desirable” everyone seemed to see our project. And it seemed there was some surprising openness to consider how we can work together to get this done.

We had the week prior asked for a meeting with Councilman Squilla; he answered Michael right away asking his staff to set up an appointment. We were concerned that we did not want him to end up surprised hearing our plans from someone else, perhaps some upset party in the neighborhood. At the end of Wednesday’s meeting, his representative asked us to meet with a short list of specific stakeholders in the neighborhood before we meet with the Councilman. The stakeholders mentioned were already on our list. We will begin with those meetings once we complete our meeting with the religious communities.

Finally, we started the week with a tour of Connelly House — the joint Project Home and Bethesda Project permanent, supportive housing — that was built on the property of St. John’s the Evangelist Catholic Church. Jackie and Kathy, the Community Ventures staff, the architects and Sondra from DePaul USA toured the facility to see resident rooms, common areas and other amenities in the facility.

If you have any questions, please speak to one of the members of the Joint Venture Ministry Team: Beth, Bob, Jackie, Kathy and Megan.