Rescue Shelter Forced To Move
By JACQUE HILBURN-SIMMONS
A local ministry that operates a men's rescue shelter in a quiet Tyler neighborhood must find another home.
The Tyler City Council declined Wednesday to support a zoning change that would allow Denise Walker to continue operating Addict Ministries out of her home at 1016 Rusk St.
Officials said the transitional residence, which houses men on parole from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and others leading troubled lives, is an inappropriate fit for the family-oriented neighborhood.
The council's rejection ech-oed an earlier stance of the Tyler Planning and Zoning Co-mmission.
City leaders said the ministry's objectives are admirable but poorly located.
"It's a good, admirable thing," District 2 Councilman Darryl Bowdre said, voicing concerns about changing the face of the historic neighborhood. "My issue is location. ... I can't support it."
Planning director Heather Nick said facilities that work with the state generally have a permit to do so.
"There was no permit or authority given to move parolees into the city," Ms. Nick said, citing the presence of eight parolees at the location.
Ms. Walker said her ministry aims to stabilize men plagued with societal issues, such as homelessness and a criminal past, by providing them with stable housing, job training and biblical guidance.
"It's a discipleship home," she said. "The men have been there for two years with no problems."
But Tyler's zoning laws prohibit halfway houses and rescue missions in that particular location. To operate legally, the ministry would need a zoning change and special-use permit, officials said.
Officials said they happened onto the ministry while investigating a code violation.
The city notified Ms. Walker in February that her ministry's current activities were illegal under current zoning and she had 30 days to make other arrangements, officials said.
When code enforcement officers returned, there were still parolees living there on restricted confinement, officials said.
Ms. Nick said some neighbors were uncomfortable living near the location, including one letter writer who complained about finding parolees hanging out in their back yard.
Pastor Tim Burns spoke favorably about the mission and its residents.
"It's a real benefit to the city to have this type of program in place," he said.
Ms. Walker said earlier her ministry, which has a second location in Flint, does not allow pedophiles and sex offenders to stay there because it's too close to Peete Elementary School.