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Letters ot the editor - 6/26/03

June 26, 2003

Government can't tell church how to run shelter project


To the editor:

As chair of the Aspiring to Serve, Inc. Committee of Christ's Reformed Church, 130 W. Franklin St., we find several problems with your editorial entitled "The Homeless Shelter".

First, you stated that Christ's Reformed Church and REACH Inc. were unable to agree on how the shelter should be run.

That is untrue. We have not in the past nor will we in the future tell REACH, Inc. how to operate the Cold Weather Shelter. Our difference is in the space REACH Inc. desires and what we can give beyond the apportioned free space.

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We are certain that REACH Inc. personnel will tell you that we have agreed on all of their requests except one. Second, you said it is time for the Washington County elected officials to get involved and help the two sides find agreement.

Now that Mr. Metzner has spoken we note that the city would also like to get involved. As it relates to the city, county, or state acting as negotiators or involving themselves in our negotiations with REACH Inc., such will not happen.

Neither the state, county nor city has the right to intercede and tell Christ's Reformed Church what they can or cannot do and who they can serve. The church and state have some important separations.

It is strange that the city or county never gave any indication they even cared what we were doing until REACH, Inc. wanted to put the Cold Weather Shelter on East Washington Street. Suddenly 148 W. Franklin Street became a very popular site.

For your information, the city refused to honor our request to waive the permit and water/sewer hook-up fees. Their reason at that time was the fear that other groups may ask for the same thing.

Even knowing the request was for the section of the building that would house the Cold Weather Shelter and other community agencies that provide services to the needy in our community, they still refused to waive the fees. For two years the city seemingly has not acknowledged our project exists. Since the location of the Cold Weather Shelter has become an issue they believe our site is where the shelter should be located.

Mr. Hendershot called a meeting to discuss this issue but did not invite anyone from our committee. Any meeting to be held we will be glad to attend and discuss what is needed financially, but to tell REACH and us what we should do is not appropriate.

Since this has now become such an important issue, where were all the elected officials and business owners for two years? No member of either group has ever approached us to help us solve the financial challenges of this undertaking.

The generosity of the congregation of Christ's Reformed Church and a construction loan have provided the income for the project thus far. A great part of Christ's Reformed Church's mission has been and will always be to serve those in our community who are in need.

We will continue to do so whether or not we and REACH Inc. can come to an agreement.Since both the city and county now know there is a project at 148 W. Franklin St. that wants to provide space to agencies that serve the less fortunate in our community, maybe they also will realize that homelessness is a concern all citizens must share.

Wayne Winebrenner

Chairman/Project Manager

Aspiring to Serve, Inc. Committee

Christ's Reformed Church

Hagerstown

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