Plano Council puts homeless shelter plan on hold



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Posted on August 10, 2010 at 12:07 AM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 10 at 8:29 PM

Proposed shelter location

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PLANO — The Plano City Council tackled a contentious issue in the community Monday night: Whether to apply for a $700,000 grant to buy land for the city's first homeless shelter.

Hundreds of people packed in on both sides of the issue, but after three hours of discussion and argument, the proposal was tabled at 11:22 p.m.

Amanda Beltz-Jester has heard the arguments against having homeless sheltered in Plano. Each one hurts.

"I want to cry, because they're talking about me, and they're talking about my children," she said. "We're good, so it makes me sad."

Out of work since September, Beltz-Jester lost her home in Wylie and moved her three teenagers to Collin County's only homeless shelter in April.

"It was very humbling," she said. "It was very hard to come here."

The Samaritan Inn in McKinney serves all of Collin County.

"Last week we turned down 32 people because we were full; 32 people, and that's typical," said Samaritan Inn director Lynne Sipiora. "We are turning down people every single day."

The organization had looked at land to build a new shelter in Plano that could serve up to 40 families.

The next step was in the hands of the Plano City Council. On Monday night, the Council considered whether to apply for a $700,000 federal grant to buy property, including one site at 14th Street and Shiloh Road.

Mark Case built an embroidery business at that intersection 13 years ago. He says he's concerned about vagrants loitering... and about the unknown.

"They said they check everybody out, refusing people... where do those people go when they're refused?" Case asked. "And the other thing is, they're wanting to rezone, but they need to more centralize this. We're right on the border of Dallas County."

More than 400 people packed into the City Council on Monday. Amanda Beltz-Jester was there, too, hoping to help shed the stereotype and put a human face on Plano's hidden problem.

But the City Council tabled the motion by a 6-2 vote, deciding against seeking the federal grant at this time. Members expressed interest in having the proposed property rezoned first.

Supporters of the Samaritan Inn expansion said they were uncertain what their next move would be.