Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 15, 2014

MEETING: Ferry Avenue shelter advocates speak out.

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette —

Following Monday's council meeting, Smith said he was unsure whether the mission would ask the zoning board for a variance.

"We're looking at what options we have," he said.

Smith said the mission had always been upfront with the city about what it had planned to do and had been granted permission to house people overnight by the code enforcement department before opening.

The zoning ordinances, which were updated in 2009, became an issue after members of the Memorial Park Block Club began to complain to city officials that people using the mission's services were harassing neighbors and hanging out on the corners, a charge that Smith said is unfair.

"We are a zero tolerance, dry mission," he said.

The mission screens those enrolled in the program for alcohol and drug use and will not allow people who are using to stay at the house, according to Smith. 

Smith asked the council members to do what they could to get the mission back to its work, keeping men struggling to change their lives off of the street. He received loud applause and cheers from Gospel Mission supporters as he returned to his seat.

"Our work is about permanent life change for people, a change that turns them around and gets them out of the cycle of poverty and addictions," Smith said. "This is one person at a time friends. It's one person at a time."

Smith was followed by several shelter supporters, including people who volunteer with the mission and people who had used the mission's services to better themselves.

Dan Crinieri said he was addicted to heroin when he walked through the doors of the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission nine months ago. He has not used drugs since that day, he said.

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