ROCKLEDGE, Fla. - A controversial plan to allow a church to care for the homeless in a Rockledge neighborhood is moving forward, after hours of heated debate Tuesday night.
People packed Rockledge City Hall to fight over an issue that has pitted neighbor against
neighbor: a plan to use two residential homes as transitional centers for homeless families.
The Grace Fellowship Church owns two homes in a neighborhood off Murrell Road, and wants the property rezoned so homeless families can live in them. But some residents living in the community don't want that to happen.
Off busy Murrel Road in Rockledge, Trish Tippins has a sign the size of a small billboard sitting in her yard. It's a sign protesting the church's plans.
"There's no protection or concern for safety of the neighborhood," said Tippins.
Right next to her home of 35 years, the Grace Fellowship Church wants to team up with a dozen other congregations to house homeless families for one week, four times a year.
One of the homes would house up to 14 people, while the second home would be used for outreach.
"What's the problem with people wanting to better themselves and go to a place like this?" WFTV reporter Karla Ray asked Tippins.
"And I hope that they would, but they're ripping apart our residential neighborhood," said Tippins.
"For those that have a problem, I think that they're operating under a misunderstanding of what we're doing," said Mike Bynum, the church's pastor.
Bynum said only families with children would be allowed to stay, and they will be monitored at all times.
"We'll actually have people staying overnight with these folks that are within our church," said Bynum.
Because the church backs up to mostly rural residential homes, they only had to notify a handful of people about their plans, so Tippins made her own petition and walked through this neighborhood to notify dozens of others.
On paper and online she said she has nearly 300 signatures against the plan.
Tippins said if the petition doesn't work she make have to go.
"It may be that we have to move from the home we've lived in my whole life," said Tippins.
At the meeting, some residents spoke out against the church's plans.
"I love walking my dog in my residential area, and I love riding my bike in my residential area, please leave it alone," said Rockledge resident Wayne Key.
"There are 293 families that I represent, by petition online and written, that do not want this," said Tippins.
Others got up to speak in support of the church's plan.
"What is our objective? To make Brevard a better place to live and to bring hope to people and I hope that you will go forward in doing that," said Bynum.
After both sides spoke, the planning commission voted 8
-2 recommending the City Council change the mixed use from residential to commercial.
"I think it's good. I think the main thing is that the citizens understand the facts; that this is not a shelter, but a network of 13 churches," said Bynum.
The issue isn't over, the land must be rezoned. That will be addressed at a Feb. 20 meeting.
If the church does get approval to move ahead with their plans, they said they hope to start housing families this summer.
If both pass, the church plans to start housing families this summer.