Chrissie Allen’s house sits on Bradley Avenue in Delavan, an idyllic street lined with towering trees and dotted with American flags.
Bicycles lie on the well-kept lawns, and flowering plants color the yards of quaint houses.
At least 25 kids live on the street, Allen said, which is two blocks west of Wileman Elementary, the early childhood school in Delavan. Allen, who has three kids, said Bradley Avenue is a nice place to live.
Tuesday night, the Delavan City Council will vote on a conditional-use permit for a permanent homeless shelter at 337 S. Eighth St., a block behind Allen’s home.
Along with other neighbors, Allen fears the shelter might disrupt the neighborhood and introduce an influx of strangers to an area full of children.
“Most of us on the block are not opposed to there being a homeless shelter in Delavan,” Allen said. “Downtown would be a much smarter location because there’s more resources. Here, it’s just so close to all the children. Our children play outside a lot. We have children with special needs on the block. That’s what scares me is the children.”
The city’s plan commission Aug. 6 recommended a conditional-use permit for the Spirit of Hope Homeless Shelter, a longtime resource for homeless men in Walworth County. For 14 years, the organization has operated as a traveling shelter from October though April, bouncing among eight to 12 churches.
Each week, shelter volunteers pack up the homeless men’s cots and belongings and haul them to a different church. The next week, they do it again.
Now, Executive Director Lynn Curtis is pushing to repurpose the vacant property on Eighth Street as the county’s second year-round homeless shelter, housing up to 14 homeless men per night.
“I know that the neighborhood is fired up. We don’t want this to be a war,” Curtis said.
“We will be a positive element, not a negative one. That’s really what I want them to know.”
Another year-round shelter would be a boon for the homeless population, Curtis said. Housing for homeless men is a pressing issue in the county, and Curtis said a second permanent shelter would allow Spirit of Hope to increase its offerings.
The organization values the safety of neighbors and its own tenants, Curtis said. The shelter has “very strict rules” and a longtime policy of being drug- and alcohol-free.
Before being admitted, would-be tenants must do a breathalyzer test and take a drug test. If a man fails, he cannot stay that night, Curtis said. The shelter likely would have law enforcement intervene and transport the man away from the area.
The shelter, which is run largely by volunteers and donations, would be open only from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. It currently requires that men undergo background checks from law enforcement, and Curtis said it does not admit sexual offenders.
“Our hope is that the neighborhood will give us time to prove ourselves,” Curtis said. “We have actually been working on the site for a year and half. This is a huge step for us.”
Still, considerable opposition has mounted.
Shandra Lock, who lives next door to Allen on Bradley Avenue, has two children.
Like others, she opposes the shelter’s location—but not because the men are homeless, she said.
“My girls take the dogs out all the time in the backyard,” Lock said.
“Just knowing that there could be 14 grown adults (outside)—it doesn’t matter that they’re homeless. At any time, there could be up to 14 people smoking essentially in my back yard. And I don’t love that.”
On Friday afternoon, Lock was circulating an opposition letter to the shelter’s location and soliciting signatures from neighbors. She plans to give the letter to the council before the vote Tuesday night.
“I’m worried about my property values, too. I think that being on the same block, I think it will impact our property values,” she said. “That’s definitely a concern as well.”