**Editor’s Note: After the Hospitality Center last week ceased overnight emergency shelter, Racine County Eye heard from residents asking where the candidates for mayor of the City of Racine stand on the issue of homelessness in general and what the city’s role could be in finding a long-term solution for overnight emergency shelter. Both incumbent John Dickert and Pastor Melvin Hargrove were sent the questions below.

Their answers are listed in the order in which they were received and have not been edited.

What is the city doing to facilitate a long-term solution?

Dickert: We have held consistent meetings that have shown great progress to move to short and long terms solutions.  More importantly we have some of the problems that we need to deal with.  We know that we need more beds and we are having issues with mental health and sex offenders.  I believe we may have solutions for both.  Anyone who cannot get into a shelter currently will be given a hotel voucher which is part of the current system structure.

Hargrove: I don’t know.

What do you think the city’s role should be?

Dickert: Making sure that a short/long term solutions are finished and implemented by the end of the fall.  Working with the COC group to make sure that we fill any gaps that have been found through our efforts to date.

Hargrove: I believe the city for its part could help in an advisory capacity to locate a building and assist in trying to locate funding for the Hospitality Center. However we must be very careful to understand the role of City Government which is to operate and maintain a balanced city budget, provide an atmosphere for job growth and business development, to ensure our safety (Public Safety), keep our streets maintained and parks cleaned (Public Works and Parks & Recreation). The city should also aid in helping to maintain other areas such as The Public Library, Museums and the Zoo.

We know Rev. Stewart and other HC leaders are planning to visit Love & Charity to determine if purchasing that site is a viable option. Assuming the building checks out, what can the city do (if anything) to help the HC with occupancy?

Dickert: If this is part of, and assists with, the needs we determine are of concern I think it may be fine.  We just need to make sure that it fits within the long term solution and doesn’t create another problem.
I am not sure if we will participate because we have not verified the long term solution yet.

Hargrove:The city could assist in this area by providing someone from the city’s Building Department to help the occupancy go as smooth as possible.

Do you know of any alternative locations where the HC can set up shop if Love & Charity doesn’t work out for whatever reason?

Dickert: Not yet, again, we have to determine what the short/long terms solutions are first.  The shelter is planning on staying open until fall, just not the overnight as I understand.

Hargrove: At present I do not know other alternative locations.

The community seems to want some concrete ideas, directions, and action on this instead of more conversation. What ideas, directions, actions would you implement if nothing stood in your way?

Dickert: The community has only been able to see one meeting at Gateway.  We have been holding meetings on this issue for months. We are working on the solutions but we cannot make people believe that this is a larger issue than it really is.  The entire question of who is homeless and not able to be taken care of in a current facility is – I believe- only a handful of people.  Nonetheless we are working to make sure they are cared for.  The other issue we need is for the homeless to agree to follow the rules and fill out the forms we need to shelter them.

Please remember that many of the individuals attending the church on main are not homeless, they are there for fellowship.   I want to finish with one point not touched on here.  I have to make sure that we are helping those in need, but I will not jeopardize the safety of our children to do that!  Some rules are unbreakable, like children and families being in the same space as sex offenders.

Hargrove: If the city had buildings that were just standing empty and not being used I would recommend the city donate one of those empty buildings to the HC. I would task the necessary personnel to assist Rev. Stewart and the other HC leaders in helping to find funding from public as well as private sources. I would also recommend building a collaborative with other non- profits with a representative from the city as a part of the collaborative to develop a strategic plan for the sustainability of the Homeless Center. I believe the best ideas and direction will come from the organizations best suited for this work and the city would only remain as an advisory partner and participant.

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