Homelessness: A resident’s point of view
I have read many viewpoints regarding the proposed homeless shelter between Route 9 and Beaver Dam Road. I would like to clear up some misconceptions about why the residents of both Henlopen Landing and Lewes Crossing are concerned. When we talk about increased traffic in the area, we are not talking about vehicle traffic, but pedestrian traffic. Twenty-eight residents, some of whom may be children at this location, will indeed be a cause for concern. Second, property values. Yes, we are concerned about our property values as national statistics reveal that a homeless shelter will, in fact, reduce property values by approximately 12 percent of market value. As many of the residents are retired, this loss is very meaningful.
However, the main concern of many residents is the vetting process for the individual shelter occupants. Having attended the initial hearing before the Sussex Board of Adjustment, the attorney for the shelter stated that all individuals would be vetted through Troop 7. This was a false statement to the board. As the former director of the Delaware State Bureau of Identification, I testified before the board that neither Troop 7, nor any other troop, would provide a criminal history to the shelter as this is prohibited. The board, in their final decision, failed to take my testimony into account. The only way to know who these individuals are is for them to be fingerprinted and a criminal history obtained from the State Bureau of Identification located in Dover. This process can take up to a week to obtain results. The concern from the residents comes from statistics that show 60 percent of all homeless fall into several categories: alcohol addicted, drug addicted, mental problems or just hardcore homeless who want to remain on the street. Crime in the area can be expected to increase, according to national statistics.
Having been to all the hearings before the board and being part of the appeal filed by our communities, it has become apparent to many of us that the proposed shelter has no business plan and has offered no solution to the problem of how they will vet these individuals for possible criminal records. There remain many questions we would like answered, such as what is the recidivist rate, what happens to the individual upon release from the facility, what happens if they leave the facility before finishing the program, where do they go then? What do they do during the day? I would say we are not against the homeless, but this is absolutely the wrong location, and there are still too many questions that need to be answered.