Haven House from a different perspective

I write this because I see the efforts of Haven House from a different perspective. I do not live in its neighborhood, but I have friends and family who do. I empathize with their concerns and understand how I might feel if this was my neighborhood. It would seem that HH is struggling to find a way to honestly reach out to the neighbors of this donated house. Instead, it is asking the community to embrace and accept them. Are they doing this to encourage guilt in this neighborhood or to pressure the city into “doing the right thing?”

 

I wonder how HH can expect its neighbors to accept this intrusion. To date, HH has not reached out to this neighborhood. HH has not given homeowners due respect by bringing them into the conversation before its plans were made public. The homeowners discovered the location of HH by recognizing a photo in the newspaper. More than three weeks have passed and HH is silent, except to the media.

There are 27 homes in this area, and most of you know someone in this neighborhood and have heard their story. The neighborhood association reached out to HH in the past week or so and has not received a response. How does this show respect to the neighborhood? How does this show good faith that HH will make an effort to be a considerate neighbor and embrace the values and spirit of this quiet, friendly neighborhood? The idea of a house of felons being introduced into the community is unsettling and has disrupted the harmony of the neighborhood.

Homeowners are right to be concerned about increased foot and vehicle traffic. Just this past weekend, a neighbor had his mailbox obstructed by a vehicle and did not receive his mail. Five vehicles were parked at the house that is to become HH. This organization might want to begin its journey by paying attention to its new neighbors. This may seem small in relation to the benevolent act of opening HH, but there will be more feelings of frustration from neighbors if consideration is not shown now.

These people have lovely yards, gardens, maintain their homes and have a beautiful neighborhood. Cars are rarely parked on the street, and boats are off-street, too. This is a neighborhood that respects and looks out for each other. It is offensive for Mr. Talley to assume that homeowners should emulate HH’s faith-based model. These people are upstanding, contributing members of this city. They are mechanics, retirees, active members of churches, computer programmers, business owners, bank employees, Greens Creek employees, city, state and federal workers and have raised children who are in college or attend our schools. Perhaps it is you, Haven House, that should emulate their neighborhood values and show respect for their feelings and expectations.

These neighbors have an absolute right to have their feelings and concerns respected and heard. The city has every right to expect that its laws and ordinances will be respected. Ms. Degnan, I ask you, if this is not a group home or halfway house as designated by the city attorney, why does your permit request a zoning change from “Single Family Residential Use” to “Transitional Group Home?” I do not live in this neighborhood, but from where I stand, choosing not to engage with the neighbors, disregarding their concerns and having lack of compassion toward their close-knit community was a conscious choice on HH’s behalf. The city has stated, as most probably believe, that Haven House is a needed service but a more appropriate area is out there. Why you would garner community support without contacting neighbors is beyond me. This shows a complete disregard on your part.

Be a good neighbor, show some compassion and understanding to those lives you will be most directly impacting. There are five houses within 50 feet of you. That seems like a good starting point.

• Traci Gilmour is a Juneau resident and business owner.

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