Springfield’s social service agencies may feel an increased burden after the City of Springfield voted to deny a zoning variance for Helping Hands.
The organization that works with the homeless population of Springfield had been housed on a property near Pioneer Park for twenty years, but had plans to move across the street to expand their operations.
Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson, whose ward houses a number of social service agencies, says that her ward has sacrificed enough and it’s time for the rest of the city should share the burden.
Pioneer Park resident Daryl Harris says that he is frustrated having to explain to his children why people are pulling their pants down in public to go to the bathroom outside the shelter. He also notes that things go missing, or get stolen from residents.
Patricia Davis, another resident and long-time social worker, says her neighborhood is being turned into "social service row." Davis and her husband built their house in Pioneer Park twenty years ago.
David Smith with District 186 says that Helping Hands moving to the new location could potentially put the children at Lincoln School at risk.
Helping Hands had originally sought a location along Tenth Street, but the city encouraged them to move to the suggested location as increased train traffic could interrupt expansion plans.
Jeff Baker, legal counsel for Helping Hands, says the decision to deny the zoning change means Helping Hands may have to close within the next few months, putting stress on other social service agencies within the city.
Baker also says that the organization will continue to find a property they can move to in order to continue providing services for the homeless population.