Proposed Homeless Shelter Stirs Up Debate in West Rehoboth

(Photo: WBOC)

WEST REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - Nestled in the intersection of Burton Avenue and Hebron Road in the historic community of West Rehoboth is a modern-looking building, home to commercial businesses. That site used to be the site of "rampant drug-use", according to the current owners, something which has long been eradicated from that property. Now that building could be inching closer to yet another use: a shelter for the homeless. 

The plan, which has been proposed by the Immanuel Shelter, has been greeted by great opposition from those in the community. That includes Janet Maull-Martin, the president of the West Side New Beginnings Youth Center, located just 150 feet away. 

"Good intentions don't make a bad idea good," she said. 

Maull-Martin said that the community has "come a long way" from when it was plagued by drugs and crime. Now she said a homeless center has the potential to bring those problems back to the area. 

"It does not need to be in this community," she said. "Where we've fought for so long and so hard to bring things up from where it used to be."

Colleen Collins, also from the board of West Side New Beginnings, said the community has been very vocal against this proposal so far. 

"We're fully supportive of a homeless shelter," she said. "We just don't think it should be placed in a marginalized, disadvantaged, residential community that has turned itself around." 

But Shelley Couch, a volunteer at Immanuel Shelter, said that the site would be a good fit, because it is near many homeless resources. 

"The homeless in this area are camping out in tents," she said. "And in the woods. In the forests around this community. We actually have homeless guests at our emergency shelters from this community." 

Couch said that the shelter had been looking for a permanent structure since January, and toured the Hebron Road location for the first time in late-August. 

Before the shelter could become a reality, Immanuel would have to apply for a special use exception to the Board of Adjustments. That effort would include a public hearing. Joseph Reed, a homeowner in the community, said he would be at the meeting, to voice his opposition to the plan. 

"We've all put a lot of effort into cleaning (the city) up," he said. "And we don't want to have any unwanted problems that we don't need."

If Immanuel can get adequate funding and approval, Couch said that they were hoping to have the shelter completed by December of 2016. 

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