Residents of Griffith Lake Road will have to wait another 11 days to learn whether Home of the Brave can open a transitional housing shelter for female veterans and their children in their community.
The Sussex County Board of Adjustment on Monday postponed making a final decision on whether to approve or deny a special use exception the agency needs to open the proposed facility in a single-family home just southwest of Milford.
“We heard a lot of testimony here tonight and we have a lot of material to look through,” Dale Callaway, chairman of the five-member board of adjustments, said after the nearly two-hour hearing in Georgetown in which 26 people identified themselves as being in favor of the request, while an equal number identified themselves as being in opposition. “I’m speaking just for me, but I want to take some time and look that over to be sure we come back with the right opinion.”
A final vote is expected to come at the board’s next meeting on March 18.
Home of the Brave, which has been providing transitional housing for homeless male veterans on Sharps Road since 1992, obtained a $180,000 mortgage on the Griffith Lake Road home in November, with the intent of transforming it into a temporary shelter for up to six homeless female veterans and their children.
Linda Boone, the chairwoman of the Home of the Brave’s board of directors, told the board of adjustment that her organization would provide structured case management services to the woman, most of whom believes will be between the ages of 51 and 61.
But for younger veterans, Boone said, there also will be a need to also provide housing for children, although her group has not yet determined how many it will be willing to accept.
“We’re not experts in children – not yet,” she said. “That’s part of our planning process. Between now and when we open, we want to address exactly what services and how many children we could handle at one time.”
Boone also tried to dispel several myths she said exist about Home of the Brave’s proposed facility.
For instance, she said the program would not accept anyone with a history of violence or criminal behavior and the women would have to prove they have been sober and drug-free for 30 days before being accepted into the program.
Boone said many of the residents would likely require counseling for issues common to female veterans, such as military sexual trauma – one reason the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will not allow the women’s facility to be located with the men’s facility on Sharps Road.
Page 2 of 2 - Amanda Gaglione, a Milford School District teacher whose family lives next door to the proposed facility, said that is one of many reasons why she is opposed to the shelter opening at the proposed location.
“I have three boys and we’re less than 200 yards away,” she said. “(Boone) has stated (the women) can’t be on a 5 acre property with men, so that concerns me.”
Gaglione and her husband, David, said they also have concerns about the number of strangers coming in and out of the shelter, the added traffic on their two-lane road and the potential impact the facility could have on property values in the surrounding area.
“I’m the wife of a veteran, my dad, stepdad, my father-in-law, four uncles, an aunt and a cousin have all received military training and are veterans, so I wholeheartedly support this cause,” she said. “[But] this really is not an appropriate place. Right now, on Southeast Second Street there are two houses that they could have that are literally right next door to each other that are next to a public park, have ample parking, a backyard … and two off everything they would possible need.”
Fellow neighbor David Murphy, a Navy veteran, also said thinks the shelter should be in a more urban setting.
“They should be in city limits where (the veterans) can get to hospitals, they can walk to schools or stores, playgrounds and libraries,” he said. “I think this will adversely affect us because if a neighbor wanted to put their home on the market and a buyer found out about this homeless center, it might be a deal killer. I wouldn’t buy it.”
Tim Willard, an attorney who represents the Gagliones and five other neighbors on Griffith Lake Road, submitted a petition signed by 66 other residents of the area who he said have similar concerns.
After the board of adjustment voted to table a final vote, David Gaglione said he saw the delay as a positive sign for the opposition.
“It means to me that they want to research this further,” he said, noting that none of his neighbors spoke in favor of the proposal. “In previous cases I’ve seen that have been tabled, they go out and look at the property and base [their decision], not just on testimony, but on personal knowledge. I believe that’s good for us.”
Boone said she is hopeful the board will rule in favor of Home of the Brave after further deliberation.
“I think they’re looking for more facts and hopefully we can provide them with those facts,” she said. “I can’t blame [the neighbors] for being concerned about their environment when something unknown might be coming. I just think there is a lack of knowledge there about how a transitional facility is run or the controls we have in place.”