LETTER: Reconsider closing Whispers

The Elders of Gospel Chapel weigh in on Whispers of Hope.

Editor, the Gazette

Open letter to Mayor and Council

I am writing to you on behalf of the Council of Elders of Gospel Chapel on a matter of grave concern to all our citizens, namely the closing of the facilities used by Whispers of Hope Benevolence Society and Boundary Emergency Transitional Housing Society.

After meeting, we decided as a church community very much concerned with the safety and well-being of our citizens — especially those less fortunate than most — to implore you to reconsider your decision.

This decision effectively holds Whispers responsible for any untoward behaviour done outside and around the building and property, not on the property. This constitutes a wide generalization and in effect punishes the majority of quiet and honest clients for the possible behaviours of a few, and these few may well be people who themselves are in great need of special treatment. We believe council has erred in making Whispers responsible for what happens on city property.

It would also seem that the possibility of a wild fire would be greatly increased with people needing independent heating arrangements. Empty stomachs have little patience.

Whispers and BETHS are not responsible for homelessness and should not be singled out for punishment.

As to “drug paraphernalia,” this may have been a problem in some areas. I had the honour to lunch at Whispers. The folks there were extremely peaceful and dignified. And having walked through the so-called “tent city,” with a population of seven or eight people, I saw no evidence of any needles. All garbage was in bags and stacked for pick-up. This is an out-of-the-way peaceful spot where people can survive until they have the opportunity for some improvement in their lives.

Fourth, there is also the legal issue of terminating a lease with no demonstrably valid reason. Whether or not this is a legally valid action, the perception will hardly seem so.

The Council of Elders of Grand Forks Gospel Chapel, therefore, invites the Council of the City of Grand Forks to be proactive in seeking a viable and humane solution to this issue.

We, as a board and as a church community of proven social outreach respectfully ask that you consider extending the time to the required terms of the lease in order to allow both Whispers of Hope and BETHS to find alternative strategies to maintain their programs.

Does Grand Forks really want to be perceived as the city that kicked out its poor or swept them under the rug like so much dust?

Ian Robins

Chair of Elders Council

Grand Forks Gospel Chapel

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