It's been controversial from the day it opened, but Friday a Lexington community center that helps the homeless was told to close. The city revoked the Community Inn's permit, which had been issued for a church, not a homeless shelter. Some of the people who live near the Winchester Road center say they're happy, but the Community Inn is planning a fight.
"I'm tempted on moving," said Anna Slone, who lives just a few houses down from the Community Inn, "I mean I'm telling you the truth because of what goes on down there."
If the Board of Adjustment has it's way, it won't be Slone who has to move. The board voted to revoke the conditional-use permit for the Community Inn after hearing complaints about the impact the facility has had on the surrounding neighborhood. "I believe that supporting a community should go so far," said B.W. Blanton, who supports moving the Community Inn, "and it shouldn't go so far as to be a detriment to the surrounding community."
Many of the neighbors who live close to the Community Inn agree. "There's been stuff stolen," said Shila Coffey, who lives near the facility, "The homeless people has walked up and down the street drunk yelling at kids, just a lot of different things that has happened since the place has been open."
"When they are all down there, they bring their buddies in cars," Slone added, "It's not just the homeless. I'll tell you the truth, it's hard telling how many people that just goes down there to meet somebody to party."
"If there are problems occuring in the neighborhood, we're going to do whatever we can to be sure it's not the people who stay at the Inn," said Ginny Ramsey, who disputes the decision by the Board of Adjustment. Ramsey is a co-director of the Catholic Action Center, which operates the Community Inn along with Emmanuel Apostolic Church. She insists the city can't control how churches practice their faith, which is how she sees the Board's vote.
"We're happy to work with the city, but we do not have money. Remember, it took $90,000 to get that building up to code and ready to do what the city told us to do so we could shelter people," Ramsey said, "We don't have another $90,000, you know, money is tight."
Nonetheless, some neighbors hope the Board's decision will stand. "This is just not the place for this," Slone said, "It's not."
Ramsey says they will appeal first, to the Urban County Council. Beyond that, she says she's prepared to go to federal court to challenge on the grounds of religious land use.