Thursday, April 26, 2007

Good Reasons and Bad

Last fall's decision by the previous owner of Avenue Flower Shop to sell the building to a management firm who in-turn has arranged for a Detox center in the old heart of town continues to rankle some. The latest rankling wrinkle involves a grant that Good Samaritan Shelter Inc. has applied for:

Fueling the complaints is a request for a $1 million grant that Good Samaritan Shelter, Inc., submitted to the state Emergency Housing Assistance Program (EHAP). The state grant requires that the center be used to help the homeless, opponents said.

Good Samaritan responds with what strikes me as a reasonable clarification: Sylvia Barnard, Good Samaritan services director, said the grant will indeed help some homeless people - those who are trying to recovery from substance abuse - but that the criticism is unfounded.

Barnard said the EHAP money is for the “already homeless, formerly homeless and those at risk for homelessness,” which she said are categories that most of the clients who will use the facility will fall under.

“It's an easy argument that anyone with addiction is at risk for homelessness, which falls under the category to receive this money,” Barnard said. “The national statistics show that 80 percent of chronically homeless people are substance abusers.”

Meanwhile, local activists continue pining for their lost downtown:

“I had heard that the EHAP money was for the homeless and Good Samaritan did not submit an application for a homeless shelter. They submitted it for a detox center, so I'm concerned,” said Alice Milligan, a leading critic of the project.

“We already have one homeless center, the Bridgehouse on Sweeney Road. This is not what we would like to see on Ocean Avenue in our downtown area,” she said.

In a chance encounter over the weekend, we happened to speak with a representative of Trinity Management, the firm that bought the building. She confirmed our suspicions that much of what opponents have said about Good Samaritan and the Center has been distorted or simply wrong. Yet the effort continues.

I don't have a problem with NIMBYs on this...I'm not sure I'd want to live nearby in all honesty. But for critics to say the Center will create problems that don't already exist in the area is an exaggeration. And frankly, not overly truthful.

During our discussion with the Trinity representative on Sunday, we learned that the Center has been vandalized and has had cause to alert police to drug deals going down in the back alley...all well before any struggling drug addicts or homeless have moved in.

As to the future of 'downtown' Lompoc, I must again respectfully disagree. Aside from some select restaurants along Ocean Avenue there is no compelling reason these days for people to make H Street and Ocean a destination. The commercial heart of the city has long since moved north along H Street and that ought to be obvious to anyone who drives down either of these streets on a given day.

Critics of Good Samaritan have good reasons not to welcome the Detox Center. Opposing it on the grounds that it will transform the area into something it isn't and that we don't want or to say it somehow hurts a thriving part of the city don't qualify.

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