By Lee Reinsch
GREEN BAY – Transformation House is another step closer to moving to a new and larger location.
But the city isn’t ready for the group to put out its welcome mat quite yet.
The Green Bay Common Council voted Tuesday, March 5, to consider the nonprofit’s request for a conditional use permit to transform the former Santa Maria Nursing Home, 433 N. Clay Street, into its new home.
“We aren’t voting to authorize anything tonight; the motion tonight is simply whether to consider the request for a conditional use permit,” Mayor Jim Schmitt reminded the council.
Transformation House is a residential facility serving men who are trying to change their lives after periods of homelessness, alcohol or drug abuse, relationship problems, legal issues, or other factors hindering their lives.
The facility’s former site on South Jefferson Street, which housed 30 men, closed last spring, and the nonprofit bought the distinctive red brick building on South Clay Street earlier this year. The new site could house 46 men.
Pastor Manuelus Reacco, director of Transition House, answered questions from the Common Council and reassured the community that men are background-checked before being accepted, take alcohol breath tests every night, and have a curfew of 11 p.m.
“If they miss curfew, we don’t allow them to enter,” Reacco said. “Everyone signs in and out, we Breathalyze every night; if they work all night, they sign out, and we verify that their work schedule matches.”
District 1 Alderwoman Barb Dorff expressed concern over those men that are turned away.
“These are people,” she said. “Where do they go?”
District 3 Alderman Andy Nicholson said he had the neighborhood in mind when he asked about crime, the effect on nearby property values and men shut out of the shelter overnight.
“These are individuals with heavy background issues,” he said. “Say two, three, four, five of them are drinking and they’re not allowed into the shelter, and they commit a crime. Property values will go down. Who’s responsible if they’re turned out and a crime is committed?”
Reacco said it’s never been a problem in Transformation House’s history at its Jefferson Street site.
“They know the rules; they don’t want to get turned away,” he said.
District 4 Alderman Bill Galvin, who represents the district in which Transformation House’s two properties are located, said those issues would be covered under the safety-concern stipulation placed on Transformation House in acquiring its conditional use permit.
“It could be cause to do a review,” Galvin said.
In addition to a set of stipulations placed on Transformation House, Inc. for the conditional use permit, the Common Council voted this week to add three more: background checks be approved by the Green Bay Police Department; Transformation House is to submit quarterly reports regarding police contacts and other information; and the group’s site plan show proof of adequate parking.
Other stipulations set by the city on Transformation House’s conditional use permit include that it won’t exceed 46 occupants without going through the Common Council for approval; if it ceases operation or management is transferred to another organization, the permit agreement ends; and the city can order a review to identify concerns stemming from police calls, safety issues, or inadequate facilities.
Transformation House’s lighting and landscaping need to be approved by the Green Bay Police Department, and registered sex offenders aren’t permitted to stay at the facility.
Dorff said she would like to see actual studies showing shelters affect property values and crime rates.
“What is the data?” she asked. “Not just someone saying property values and crime are affected.”
Galvin said the number of police calls over a year’s time related to Transformation House wasn’t out of line with the number of calls related to St. John’s Homeless Shelter or NEW Community Shelter.
“A high percentage of the calls were the type of calls we would see at any large apartment building: someone isn’t following rules, calls for probation and parole,” he said. “Some calls had nothing to do with the shelter; they just happened to be near where the caller related the location. I really did not find anything that troubled me.”
Community and Economic Development Director Kevin Vonck said there isn’t a lot out there with regard to studies.
“There’s correlation but not causation,” he said.