Few residents of East Winston-Salem support the Salvation Army’s proposal to convert a day care center on Cleveland Avenue into a homeless shelter for families, saying it isn’t a good fit for a neighborhood trying to attract new businesses and development.
“We have a volatile community,” said Marva Reid, president of the East/Northeast Winston Neighborhood Association. “We’d be doing homeless people a grave disservice putting them here.”
Last month the Salvation Army Greater Winston-Salem Area Command asked the City-County Planning Board to rezone an area from institutional and public district to limited office/special-use zoning so it can put a homeless shelter near its emergency assistance office at 901 Cleveland Ave. The proposed rezoning property is near Iglesia Cristiana Arca de Refugio church at the corner of Cleveland Avenue and Tenth Street.
The proposed shelter would house women and children and, when necessary, families with single fathers. The area has a few small businesses, churches, low-income apartments and housing, as well as single-family homes.
The planning board approved the measure 7-2 and sent the petition to the Winston-Salem City Council.
The discussion and vote by the city council was continued to its July 20 meeting.
Maj. James Allison, commander of the local Salvation Army, said the property is being sold to the organization by Greater Cleveland Christian Church. Allison said he and his board will take another look at the proposal.
“We’re waiting for key board members to return from trips so we can look at the entire situation,” he said. “We have to reevaluate and determine the best next steps.”
Reid said the community has problems of its own it is working on.
“There were an overwhelming number of ‘no’ votes from the community,” Reid said. “I don’t understand why you have the majority of the community saying no and it’s still a debate.”
Shraddha Modi, the owner of MLK Pharmacy in the Eastway Plaza Shopping Center near the intersection of New Walkertown Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and about two blocks from the proposed shelter, said she doesn’t think the shelter would be good for the neighborhood.
“I’ve been in this neighborhood for nine years, and it’s getting better,” Modi said. “The neighborhood is finally starting to come together, so to me it’s not a good idea.”
Russell Smith, a board member of Simon G. Atkins Community Development Center and a certified city planner, said a homeless shelter should be near such services as the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Social Services and job services.
“Generally speaking, a shelter needs to be in a location where people use its services and people can get to the additional services they need,” Smith said. “That’s why usually a downtown location is best because it’s close proximity to those agencies. From the other side, you have to look at who you’re trying to attract to your area and their view of having a homeless shelter nearby.”
The area also is part of the Cleveland Area Master Plan to redevelop the neighborhood. Larry Woods, the chief executive officer of the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem, worked with outside planners, the residents and business community to create the master plan, which was approved by the planning board and city council in 2012.
“Our biggest concern is that the residents’ dreams won’t be adhered to,” Woods said. “At this time, having a shelter would have a chilling effect on families looking to move into this area and investors with interest in putting businesses in the area. Having a shelter there is not compatible with what we’re trying to do at this time.”
Allison and Woods clarified that this is not an “us versus them” situation.
“We are in the same business, and that’s to provide affordable housing for those who need it,” Woods said.
Allison said the reaction to the Salvation Army’s proposal was somewhat unexpected.
“The community has an opportunity to better themselves through their plan. I don’t think that this homeless shelter will take that plan off track, but neither do I know that to be fact,” he said. “They have deep feelings about their needs. (This reaction) maybe wasn’t expected to that level, but they have the opportunity to express themselves and they did. I’m not upset with them, and I hope they aren’t upset with me or with Salvation Army.”
Shalik Marion, a resident of the Cleveland Avenue area, said that although she wasn’t aware of the proposal, she doesn’t support it.
“It’s not a great idea (to bring a shelter here),” she said. “Some of us (are) already in poverty over here ourselves.”