/Clarksdale pledged $10,000 for a homeless shelter downtown Residents want it elsewhere

Clarksdale pledged $10,000 for a homeless shelter downtown Residents want it elsewhere

Brenda Fields, a Clarksdale resident who is also a business owner, bought a downtown building three months ago in order to open a shelter for the homeless. She said that the City of Clarksdale recently voted to grant $10,000 in aid to the effort. This brings her dream, which she has had for the past two years, closer to reality. The money has not yet been distributed. Fields was rebuffed by community members after she purchased the building. A petition garnering 145 signatures against the shelter for fear and safety at panhandling and safety was created, according to a representative of the community. This was stated at Monday’s meeting of the mayor and commissioners boards. Fields, the owner of The Change Place, stated that she did not have the opportunity to meet with members of the community before the petition was circulated. She explained that The Change Place is a non-profit focused on rehabilitation and aiding homeless people. She said, “The petition came and so we stopped everything until everything was resolved.” The petition will not stop The Change Place from giving funds to the facility. However, it could cause commissioners and influence their vote about the location of shelter. Commissioner Ken Murphy oversees the area where the shelter could be built. He said that he supports what his constituents want. Murphy stated that although he supports another location with his constituents, he also believes there is a need for a shelter for homeless people in the city. “These are issues we don’t like to have to be able to vote on… we don’t want to vote for this in a negative manner.” Brandon Thomas, Ward 2’s community representative, told Mississippi Today that the downtown residents created a petition to move it elsewhere. Fields bought the building before she presented her plans to create a shelter to the city commissioners. Bo Plunk (Ward 1 commissioner) said that the idea was great. “Before spending $1, you should have done your homework, or gone to the mayor, or any member of city council, to say here’s mine… you already put your hand behind the eight ball purchasing the building.” According to data from the Continuums of care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, nearly 10,000 students were homeless during the school year. According to the 2020 Out of Reach report of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the average renter in Coahoma county earns $10.25 an hour. However, a person who lives there would need to make $12.63 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment. Mississippi United to End Homelessness covers Coahoma County, and has received several million in funding from CARES to run a rental assistance program to people affected by the virus. Clarksdale attempted to set up a homeless shelter in another neighborhood ten years ago. Residents fought back then too, according to Ward 4 Commissioner Ed Seals. The commissioners agreed Monday that there is a need to provide shelter for homeless people in the area. However, they insisted Fields and residents solve the problem themselves. Clarksdale’s city attorney Melvin Miller stated that if the process proceeds with the same location the nonprofit must post a sign outside the location informing residents that the planning commission will review a conditional or rezoning application per city law. The recommendation will be made by the planning commission and the commissioners and board of mayor will then vote on the recommendation. The matter must be heard. Anna Wolfe contributed to the story.