Plans for an emergency shelter concern nearby residents

The Claremore Ministerial Alliance announced plans Tuesday to develop an old church building at the corner of Sixth Street and Florence Avenue into an emergency shelter for Claremore’s homeless and displaced.

Plans were announced at the City of Claremore Board of Adjustments meeting, where the Ministerial Alliance requested zoning variances for off-street parking and the establishment of an emergency shelter in a residential area.

The proposed Amazing Grace Emergency Shelter is a collaborative effort of twelve churches in the alliance.

“There are and have been other places for people to stay and other programs where we can provide a room for someone for the night, but this particular effort was a collaborative effort crossing denominational barriers,” said Ministerial Alliance President John Ray of Destiny Life Church.

If approved, the shelter will provide a maximum two-night stay for one family at a time throughout their first year.

The first year will serve as a trail period for the alliance to work out any kinks and decide how to move forward or expand the project.

“You can’t meet someone’s spiritual needs until you meet their physical needs,” Ray said, explaining why so many local churches got involved in the project. “Sometimes just having a little bit of support can make all the difference in the world. Providing someone with a place to stay, with a warm meal, with a dry bed – basic needs that we all have – providing that for them can make a big difference.”

One community member spoke in support of the project, telling the board about her personal use of an emergency shelter to get through a rough patch.

In 2018, the Ministerial Alliance documented renting at least 90 hotel rooms for individuals in need of emergency shelter.

“Since First Baptist already owns the building, it basically increases their capacity to offer these services at a reduced rate,” said Assistant City Planner Kyle Clifton.

Five members of the community attended the meeting in opposition, expressing a shared concern that the shelter residents may not respect the peace and property of the neighborhood.

“The Ministerial Alliance said they would do a background check for all of the people who stayed there, but there was still a little bit of hesitation with that,” Clifton said.

At the Ministerial Alliance’s request, the board tabled the variance for the shelter. The special exception for parking was approved.

“There were some questions from the board of adjustments in reference to the accountability of the people that would temporarily be staying there,” Clifton said, explaining the board’s decision. “I think the board wanted something more solid on the accountability side.”

Ray said he and the rest of the alliance were understanding of the community’s concerns and appreciative of the feedback and questions they received.

“When you bring something like an emergency shelter into a residential area, there are some challenges with that,” Ray said. “We didn’t have all of the preparation for the questions they asked. We have got some homework to do and then we will get back on the agenda and bring it back before them again.”

The Ministerial Alliance will bring the request back to the board of adjustments in the next one to two months.