After more than an hour of heated public comment, the Delavan City Council tabled its vote on issuing a conditional-use permit to a proposed men’s only homeless shelter that would abut a residential neighborhood.
Council members on Tuesday voted unanimously to revisit the proposal in January. That will give the Spirit of Hope Homeless Shelter, the organization behind the proposed shelter at 337 S. Eighth St., and neighborhood residents time to further discuss the shelter, council member Ryan Schroeder said.
Before the vote, several council members told about 75 residents at the meeting that they had volunteered at the shelter and lauded Spirit of Hope’s impact and mission.
Currently, the shelter operates from October through April and travels to a new church each week. There is only one permanent, year-round homeless shelter in Walworth County.
For 14 years, the Spirit of Hope has proven itself to be an asset in Walworth County, Executive Director Lynn Curtis said. She said the men staying at the shelter “are not deviants,” but rather men who are down on their luck and trying to regain their footing.
But one after another, residents from the neighborhood pushed back during the meeting’s public comment portion.
Marsha Cratsenberg spoke on behalf of many residents who live on Bradley Avenue, a street a block east of the shelter’s proposed location. It has a high concentration of kids, and residents enjoy its family-friendly nature, she said.
A letter opposing the shelter was signed by 47 people, Cratsenberg said. Their opposition stems from the shelter’s proximity to Wileman Elementary, the early-childhood school in Delavan that sits two blocks from the proposed site; a possible drop in the neighborhood’s quality of life; and the threat of sinking property values, she said.
Jill Sorbie, the interim superintendent for the Delavan-Darien School District, said she wasn’t aware of the shelter proposal until residents started speaking about it the meeting. Because of that, she said the council should “really think about the decisions they make.”
Others threw their support behind the shelter, saying the community had a moral obligation to the homeless.
Zac Meyer, the pastor at the River Church, which owns the vacant building, said he can’t understand what it means for residents to grapple with a homeless shelter coming into their neighborhood.
But he said he knows what the addition of another year-round facility would mean to Walworth County.
“I’m sorry that this has been put in your neighborhood. But I’m not sorry we have the opportunity to do something amazing for guys who need to be redeemed,” Meyer said. “This is just the start of a conversation we need to have as a community.”