In Praise Of NIMBYs


The recent PADS shelter dust-up has resurrected the term “NIMBY” (“Not in my back yard”), which traditionally has been used as an epithet by people who want some facility or special use that incurs the opposition of its neighbors.  NIMBYs are usually cast as insular, selfish and standing in the way of “progress,” although we prefer the Merriam-Webster definition: “opposition to the locating of something considered undesirable (as a prison or incinerator) in one’s neighborhood.“

We here at PublicWatchdog like NIMBYs because they provide a needed reality check on things that might not be all that good for the community as a whole but that otherwise may get overlooked by the rest of us who are not in the “line of fire” until it’s too late to stop them – like projects and programs that are often found wanting, in whole or in part, once they are subjected to closer scrutiny, critical thinking and public debate.

In the case of the proposed PADS shelter at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, many of us who don’t reside near there might not have gotten past all the warm-and-fuzzy talk about “clients,” “guests,” etc. if not for the NIMBYs who questioned, rightfully so, why the church should be allowed to become a homeless magnet by turning itself into what amounts to a “flop house” – a by-the-night place for transient homeless to “flop” – in their neighborhood, or anywhere else in Park Ridge for that matter.

That is a question worth asking in light of the PADS goal [pdf] (as described on the Journeys from PADS to Hope website, of providing nothing more than “hospitality, food and emergency shelter to homeless people from October 1 through April 30.”  And the description of their “Results” [pdf] – at least as measured by how many people they actually lift out of homelessness – doesn’t seem all that impressive for an organization whose most recent published financials [pdf] show a budget of almost three-quarters of a million dollars, supplemented with over 42,776 volunteer hours per year.

It’s also a question worth asking when we already have The Center of Concern, a local social services organization with the motto “a helping hand to neighbors in need” and which already offers not only a “Home Sharing” program but also a “Homeless Transitional Housing” program that provides scattered site apartments and supportive services to homeless individuals for up to 24 months.  Frankly, those sound a lot more desirable and effective in the battle against homelessness than the PADS flop-house du jour program.

But until those NIMBYs went public with their concerns, the PADS project was flying under the radar – thanks in no small measure to the Park Ridge Ministerial Association, whose members apparently felt that because they are on a mission from God they don’t have to deal with such mundane tasks as consulting with, or being accountable to, their neighbors.  What gives them the right to dictate to the St. Mary’s neighbors how that neighborhood will be used, especially since most of those ministers have never owned a home or paid a penny of real estate tax in our community? 

Not surprisingly, our top local politician didn’t exactly cover himself with glory on this matter, either.  It looks as if Mayor Howard Frimark began encouraging proponents of the shelter back in 2006 despite claiming as recently as a month or so ago that he didn’t know more than what he read in the papers.  And until recently, Frimark’s 5th Ward Alderpuppet, Robert Ryan, was MIA on this issue – perhaps because it didn’t involve something as deserving of Ryan’s limited time and effort as giving a well-connected developer a variance to build a few million dollars’ worth of extra condo units on the edge of Uptown. 

But the PADS shelter is an item on tonight’s City Council agenda (7:30 p.m., 505 Butler Place), primarily because of the interest and effort of the St. Mary’s NIMBYs.  So if we actually get the kind of public discourse a project such as the PADS shelter demands, and the residents deserve, we will have those NIMBYs to thank. 

8 comments so far

A doubleheader from PW and PRU on the PADS plan. “Homeless magnet” is exactly right, and it doesn’t look like many/any of them are “our” homeless, so what’s the point?

This is exactly correct!

Since when did it become a bad thing to even question, if not object to, the placement of a potentially bad thing in one’s own backyard?

Way to go Watchdog!

The Park Ridge uptown is a short mile from the Chicago boarder, and in Chicago gentrification and the closing of emergency shelters, in favor of permanent/transitional housing is causing movement among the residentially challenged. Where can they go – the bordering towns, especially those with open arms and a nice shelter. PADS is a bad idea for Park Ridge, we would be the closest PADS to Chicago – like a conduit to the Palatine PADS. Park Ridge is a network of public transportation; we must take Chicago population movements into consideration when deciding on a homeless shelter. Chicago is actually in our backyard.

I checked out the Journeys/PADS website myself and you’re right – nothing to show that PADS is getting anybody out of homelessness,or even to the Hope Center. But I guess we can always hang banners on our gaslights that say “Park Ridge: We’re Here For The Homeless.” Yeah, that’s the ticket.

I don’t really understand what everyone is afraid of. Homeless people are not the monsters they are being made out to be. Many of them may have spent time in jail to get a good night’s sleep. Many of them may be mentally ill, but how many of the oppositioners are mentally ill as well? Do you suffer from anxiety (obviously you do as you are anxiously obsessing about the homeless sleeping close to your house). Is any one in your family on medication for anxiety, depression, ADHD, eating disorders,or mood swing disorders? When will you, the one on any medication for one of these mental illnesses, be told that you can not sleep close by as well? How easily you seem to identify yourself as more worthy to live in the neighborhood around St. Mary’s than another. What exactly are the desired qualities that make one worthy? Have you ever looked a homeless person in the eyes/ –the ones strolling around Trader Joes with empty baskets, wishing for food samples? Do they look dangerous because they wear too many clothes, or have stringy hair, or bad teeth? I see more danger for your children at the skate park at Hinkley than at the proposed PADS site. What are these precious children learning from your example to refuse hospitality to someone homeless? You should ashamed of the message your kids are picking up, the NIMBY attitude. You should be ashamed that you do not want to help “me”. I am not really a homeless person, but if I were I would organize my fellow sufferers and boycott your snobby neighborhood.

To Anonymous on 05.02.08 3:35 pm:

We are not aware of anybody suggesting that the homeless are “monsters,” so why are you raising that false issue?

What qualifies those St. Mary’s neighbors to live in that neighborhood? How about their desire and ability to buy their house and pay the taxes on it.

As for the lessons this matter teaches our children, for starters let’s try: that charity begins at home; that we should care more deeply about our community and our neighbors than about transient strangers with no ties to either; that we won’t be intimidated by bullies just because they wear clerical garb and claim that God is on their side; that we won’t be bamboozled by politicians with hidden agendas; that we won’t be dupes of “charities” run by people who may be as (or more) concerned about increasing their own profile, influence and income than about the well-being of their “clients”; and that we don’t need to invite potential problems into our community just because somebody wants a new hobby.

When every Park Ridge resident who needs help is receiving it and all of the other community needs are being met (like, for example, adequate funding for the Center of Concern), then there will be time for meaningful public debate on whether we need or want a PADS shelter anywhere in Park Ridge.

Meanwhile, all of the PADS supporters are free to volunteer their time and contribute their money as they choose – but they have no right to force their choice on the St. Mary’s neighbors, or on the rest of us.

“I am not really a homeless person, but if I were I would organize my fellow sufferers and boycott your snobby neighborhood.”

Go for it!

To defend the concerned citizen of Park Ridge, comprising of hard working Moms and Dads, elderly / seniors, single tax paying menand women and the children of Park Ridge; which also includes the Business District and Residential areas I submit.

@St’ Marys church is not the right location: no street lights, no parking, no common or smoking areas, nor sprinkler system, covered smoking and non-visible carbon minoxide detectors,no protection buffer zone for children going to and from school during P.A.D.S.opening and closing, no showers or bath facilities for the homeless, no laundry just, a small bathroom, no divider or rooms to separate the men from the women, no consulting…

P.A.D.S. also has not been forthright with underlying facts…They told the group at the St Mary’s P.A.D.S. open house night on April 28th 2008…that no one can enter the P.A.D.S Shelter without a photo ID and prescreening,from the Palatine Journey for Hope Location, who does the prescreening for criminal background, mental health and history.

If you call P.A.D.S. directly they will tell you that any homeless person can go to any P.A.D.S. site and show a photo ID and get a free 7 day pass – until they get to the Palatine Journey for Hope Location to start the prescreening process…this is red flag since the statistics are and (Ill.State Gov. the Daily Herald)include:

The following facts were obtained from the Daily Herald / and IL.GOV websites:

•50% of the homeless have spent time in jail
•24% have been in prison
•Homeless account for 10% to 35.4% of all arrests
•Sex Offenders reside use shelters to avoid Megan’s law
•57% have mental health problems
•Local Police are called on a regular basis to PADS and make arrests
•PADS funding request from the city of Elgin for $50,000.00, plus an additional $30,000.00 annually for additional staff in 2000
•Elgin passed a tax increase to meet the funding dollars in 2001

The ministry at St. Marys also informed us that nightL:

1.That they severed (evicted)the Children’s Day Care center, which has been a great and well supported service to working mothers 9 KEEPING THEM FROM BECOMING HOMELESS)

@. That their ministry’s mission was their children’s and teens programs…with P.A.D.S children and teens must can not be in or at a P.A.D.S. Site , and the children of Park Ridge must not be exposed to the homeless problems and challenges… they need to learn hope to help the homeless and open a flop house for them.

These are just a few major concern we must address besides alcohol, drugs, panhandling, stealing , sex offenders , citizens herassment, realestate deteriotation,tax increases, adition crime, unexceptable homeless vagerents and the business district impact…

Think before ignoring..relocation would solve the impact and protect the homeless and the citizens. There is a petition for relocation. Contact [email protected]

Thank You

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