Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 4, 2014

Homeless shelter under fire from Memorial Park neighbors

Homeless facility draws complaints from Memorial Park neighbors

Niagara Gazette — The man in charge of a homeless shelter that has drawn the ire of some residents in the Memorial Park neighborhood defended his facility this week, saying he believes it’s not only operating legally but providing valuable services to the needy in Niagara Falls. 

A day after several members of the Memorial Park Neighborhood Block Club asked city council members to help close down the shelter located at 1023 Ferry Ave., Shaun Smith, executive director of Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission, Inc., said he’s prepared to meet with the facility’s neighbors to discuss their concerns. He also said his group believes it is within its right to continue operating at its current location. 

“We we did our due diligence when we bought the building and I’d stand behind that,” Smith said. “We’re always doing what we can to be a good neighbor and we are going to continue to do that.” 

Block club members have been complaining about the shelter’s presence for years. During Monday’s city council meeting, four homeowners from the neighborhood told lawmakers they are concerned about the shelter’s presence and the conduct of some of its clients. 

While the shelter provides food and temporary lodging to individuals in need, block club members say it is also attracting people — some of whom are coming from outside the city — who are causing disruptions and contributing to an increase in littering, vagrancy and crime in the surrounding neighborhood. 

Block club members have also long argued that the shelter is currently operating in violation of the city’s own zoning laws and say it does not belong in their residential neighborhood.  

“There’s places for that type of thing and it’s not where it is now,” said Noreen Chatman, a lifelong resident and longtime block club member. 

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