OUR VIEW: Big ideas need full support
There’s something refreshing about seeing a full town hall meeting. Our lives are busy, so when people slow down to engage with their communities on issues of importance, it’s noteworthy — and often newsworthy.
Concerned Community Members for a Family Justice Center and members of Save Our Shelter joined with Shelter From the Storm last week to host a panel discussion and question and answer session to present an idea: a family justice center. It’s an idea that would preserve Shelter From the Storm at its current location, its advocacy center built on the county campus in 1998 with the help of a community development block grant.
The nonprofit is facing a September eviction from the county in order to site a $3.1 million courthouse on the SFS center’s footprint. The state has offered an unprecedented $2 million to the county for construction of the court facility.
Ad hoc community groups have taken up the cause, asking county commissioners to find another way, a way that will allow construction of a much-needed courthouse but maintain the valuable community services provided by SFS. The town hall meeting offered one of the first tangible solutions we’ve heard. No doubt, it’s ambitious. SFS Executive Director Teresa Crouser estimates the entire center would run about $25 million.
But if the center operates as planned, as a group of multidisciplinary agencies working toward family justice, then they could have a shot at some significant grants. The proposal includes law enforcement, an expanded jail, the courts, Mt. Emily Safe Center and SFS, and a parking garage in its plan. If done in a phased approach as has been discussed, it’s not impossible for Union County.
The idea is refreshingly positive amidst litigation. Though the county commissioners did not attend the town hall meeting, the county attorney did. We hope this is a sign that the commissioners are listening to their constituents and their concerns. Union County hasn’t been afraid to dream big dreams before, but we need all hands on deck to make them become a reality.