Some residents of North College Street stand staunchly opposed to a longstanding transitional housing facility joining the neighborhood. Across town, those who've lived as neighbors for over two decades claim the nonprofit operates without issue or hindrance to their everyday lives.
It's now up to the Waxahachie Planning and Zoning Commission to decide where Daniel's Den will call home.
Daniel's Den has provided emergency services and transitional housing in Waxahachie since 1996. The nonprofit was gifted an opportunity to relocate to N. College Street, which has residents up in arms, specifically citing its relocation would create an unsafe environment and lower property values on nearby homes.
Joy Ranton, Daniel's Den executive director, has already submitted a request to the City of Waxahachie to have the desired location at 512 N. College St. rezoned from general retail to commercial/residential.
The two-story home would occupy a resale shop on the bottom floor with a community involvement area and office, while the second floor would be utilized for transitional housing.
The Waxahachie Planning and Zoning Commission first heard Ranton's case on June 11.
Prior to that session of the Planning and Zoning commission, the City of Waxahachie mailed 22 notices to property owners within 200 feet of the desired location at 512 N. College St.
The P&Z board received three responses in opposition, as well as letters of objection from two individuals that do not own property in the notification area.
A petition was also submitted, arguing Daniel's Den would "disrupt the quality of life and bring down property values." It also noted neighbors would "be forced to live with possible drug addicts, alcoholics and prostitutes as well as violent persons searching for the protected."
The claims are in stark contrast to firsthand accounts provided by residents near the current location of Daniel's Den, 507 W. Jefferson Street, which is where the nonprofit has operated since 2000.
"I wish that before people form opinions, they would take the time to gather facts because anybody that knows what we do — the churches that support us, the United Way of West Ellis County, individuals, volunteers — would tell you what a wonderful program this is," said Ranton from the dining room of the N. College home. "Quite honestly, if we were running what people envision us to be, we wouldn't have this support."
LIFE ON W. JEFFERSON STREET
Daniel's Den currently stands within a community just west of downtown near businesses, homes and even a park. As the Daily Light knocked door-to-door to better understand what life is like living next to transitional housing, neighbor after neighbor praised the nonprofit and the impact it has made on the clients.
In the home to the right of Daniel's Den resides Silvia Martinez and her young granddaughter. Martinez has rented the property for the past 16 years and felt comfortable enough to allow her granddaughter to open the front door when a stranger knocked.
"I have never had a problem here and always felt safe," Martinez assured.
Martinez shared that her granddaughter is allowed to play outside and said, "I usually don't see anyone out here, but sometimes in the morning."
A second resident stated he has spent the past 30 years in education and the last 27 owning a home on W. Jefferson Street. He was very familiar with the work of Ranton and admitted to helping a few women transition to Daniel's Den himself.
"I think she's doing a service for women who need help getting on their feet," he said. "They get good jobs and then cars. She runs a tight ship over there."
The homeowner noted that those who reside at Daniel's Den do not stay long and are not a hassle when living there. In fact, women have volunteered in the past to help clean neighbors lawns, including his.
The man described clients of Daniel's Den as "presentable."
A married couple who reside nearby Daniel's Den noted they have lived in their home for the past two years. Both expressed it is a safe street to live on. The husband and wife stated they had never seen clients of Daniel's Den on the road and have even recommended people to stay there.
All three households confirmed they have never seen any alcoholics, drug addicts or prostitution. Some residents did note the Daniel's Den property could benefit from repairs and exterior restorations, which all agreed is not unlike any of the other homes on the street.
The Waxahachie Police Department searched through dispatch calls related to the property where Daniel's Den currently stands and found just one response (DWI) to the residence over the past five years.
When analyzing property values through the Ellis Appraisal District's GIS mapping service, appraisal values have seen steady growth along W. Jefferson Street, with most properties at record highs.
Phyllis M. Hannon, a resident of N. College Street, wrote to the P&Z Commission that, "The proposed placement of Daniel's Den will negatively affect our property values and possibly endanger lives."
Her husband, William, reiterated the same response.
Jamie Mills is another resident of N. College Street that stands opposed to Daniel's Den.
Mills issued a statement of opposition directly to Waxahachie Planning Director Shon Brooks, who also serves on the P and Z board.
"I believe the College Street corridor will be a major gateway into the changing city, and Daniel's Den does not fit into the range of businesses the city corridor needs to have welcoming business at this time for the direction the city is growing," Mills wrote.
Mills also expressed having a shelter next door would diminish the value of the property and said future sales of adjacent properties would be negatively affected. Mills stated he hoped to see more restaurants and family establishments on the street and that the safety of Daniel's Dens clients would negatively impact the overall family atmosphere.
Raymond Kelley, also a resident of N. College Street, stated he opposes the potential new neighbor because of a belief that Daniel's Den would negatively affect property values.
Vicki Parker, a resident of N. College Street, submitted a letter of opposition on Wednesday with six points that included safety of students of Marvin Elementary, a potential to ruin the integrity of the historic home, inadequate parking, too many temporary people coming and going, possible increase of noise and crime, and being a potential eyesore with dropped off donations.
A REALTOR'S PERSPECTIVE
The Daily Light spoke with six local realtors about the situation and asked if a transitional housing facility would impact property value to nearby homes.
Three agreed Daniel's Den would unquestionably have an adverse effect on the property value of nearby homes, while the other three thought differently.
Realtor Gary Giles stated on the record, "Nobody wants those things in their neighborhood. People don't want apartment buildings in their neighborhood — even nice apartments."
Another realtor stated the value of homes might not decrease but would create less interest for future buyers on the street. Another realtor said the effect of property value would be a case-by-case situation since appraisers are not consistent and might not be familiar with the area.
A local realtor with three years of experience stated, "Since the street is already zoned for mixed-use, having one additional retail/transitional housing shouldn't affect property value any further."
Another realtor suggested property values should not diminish since Daniel's Den does not function as a homeless shelter and therefore would not have a line of people waiting for a bed or meal.
A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY
Rhonnie and Alfred Tompkins were the most recent owners of the 1,904-square-foot home on N. College Street where Ranton hopes to relocate Daniel's Den.
Rhonnie served on the board for Daniel's Den for four years and, after her passing, the property was designated to an heir that was not a child of the family since they did not have any.
Ranton, who has been involved with Daniels Den for nearly 14 years, expressed interest in the home and managed a deal with the Daniel's Den board of directors to finance it.
When comparing the current home to the desired location, Ranton shared the privacy of clients is more accessible due to the back entrance and private stairs that would lead to the area where women would stay. The layout of the home also provides a more family-oriented atmosphere.
The current home is divided into several small apartments that include a living space, bathroom and kitchen. Ranton assured the character of the house would remain original with minor interior cosmetic changes.
"Most people do not take us up on this deal because the rules are strict and you have to pass a drug test before you can even get in," Ranton emphasized.
When asked about the circumstances that guide people in, Ranton expressed, "That's what people do not understand. We are not a shelter; it's transitional housing, and they live there for up to six months."
She explained that two women currently reside in the home on W. Jefferson, while five stayed at the residence in May. There are times when the home is empty.
Ranton estimated that more than 1,400 women have been through the transitional living and that 83 percent moved to permanent housing after leaving Daniel's Den.
Daniel's Den does emergency assistance 24/7 for all of Ellis County via Waxahachie Police Department.
Services and resources from Daniel's Den are offered at zero cost.
"Most importantly everything here is totally free," Ranton said. "They pay not a penny for anything. They don't have to pay for a roll of toilet paper while they are here."
Clients are required to sign a self-sufficiency contract that permits them to only keep 20 percent of each paycheck, and the rest is managed by Ranton to go toward necessities that she determines.
Resources are available to the clients and are required to apply to 20 jobs a week until employed. Transportation, counseling and childcare are provided. Ranton noted the proximity to Marvin Elementary is ideal since residents on W. Jefferson Street are already zoned for that campus. Due to proximity, children are not far enough to take the bus an, therefore, are shuttled by Ranton.
With the N. College address, mothers will have the opportunity to walk their child to school.
Every client has a different situation as to what brings them through the door such as divorce, health or a series of bad choices, Ranton explained.
"People that are in domestic violence situations cannot live with us — no," Ranton emphasized. "We help them, but they cannot live here. We are not a safe house."
When Ranton read the petition in the P&Z packet, she thought, "Wow, they have no clue."
Ranton once found herself homeless after a domestic violence situation and was lived in an abandoned home for four months. She agreed it was her rock bottom.
"You have no idea how worthless you get," she explained. "I would get a ride into town every now and then and get some food."
After an individual vouched for Ranton, she was allowed to stay in the emergency shelter formerly located on the second floor of the old elections office.
"I was so grateful, I kissed the floor, which was filthy by the way," she said. Ranton can now laugh about the experience, noting she had seen dirtier floors.
It is her personal testimony and the women who have been in her shoes that will keep Ranton fighting for their salvation.
"Like I said, the girls that come here are not street people, most of them have never been on the street," Ranton explained. "I may be the only one that ever was. These are people that for some reason, are losing their houses and have no place to go and no means to get another place."
HAVE A VOICE
During the June 11 meeting, Ranton requested the agenda item be tabled. The P&Z commission will reconsider the rezoning request on Tuesday.
The recent agenda packet includes one letter of support and four opposed within the notification area, as well as, two letters of support and two opposed outside the notification area.
The Planning and Zoning meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council Conference Room, located inside Waxahachie City Hall.
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450