By Tim Pallesen
It began with a request to give homeless people a shower — and ended with city commissioners saying the Caring Kitchen must move.
Christians Reaching Out to Society, known as CROS Ministries, serves nearly 100,000 hot meals to poor people each year in a city-owned building at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Northwest Eighth Avenue.
“It’s a critical need and nobody wants it in their backyard,” Mayor Cary Glickstein said.
Neighborhood opposition wasn’t evident until a March 31 City Commission meeting where the Caring Kitchen sought city approval to build a 165-square-foot addition to its 3,061-square-foot building, in order to accommodate showers and a washer and dryer.
“We’re talking about dignity and self-esteem by giving the homeless clean clothes and a shower,” architect Gary Eliopoulous said in presenting the request.
But neighbors seized the opportunity to ask that the Caring Kitchen be moved someplace else because of the vagrants it attracts to their residential neighborhood.
“The food pantry has been tolerated since it opened in 1997,” Reginald Cox said. “To add to it would add insult to injury.”
Neighbors said homeless people leave trash in their yards. Deborah Wright, who lives across the street, said she can no longer invite her grandchildren to her home after she saw a couple having sex in the Caring Kitchen parking
“I’d hate to see someone injured, murdered or raped,” Wright said. “We’re not asking for you to eradicate the Caring Kitchen. Just look for a better location.”
At the April 21 meeting — where city commissioners unanimously agreed with City Manager Don Cooper’s recommendation that the Caring Kitchen be moved — the Caring Kitchen withdrew its request to provide showers.
“We will work together to work this out,” Glickstein assured Caring Kitchen administrators.
Cooper estimated that the search for an appropriate new location could take two years. Wright asked for two months.
By Tim Pallesen