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St. Vincent de Paul withdraws Bethel boys shelter proposal

Executive Director Terry McDonald said the agency is searching for a new location for the shelter in the Eugene, Springfield or Bethel school districts.

Posted: Aug. 8, 2018 10:05 AM
Updated: Aug. 8, 2018 6:17 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County announced Wednesday it has withdrawn a proposal to build the new teen boys shelter on the Bethel School District property.

Executive Director Terry McDonald said the agency is searching for a new location for the shelter in the Eugene, Springfield or Bethel school districts.

McDonald said there are three main reasons as to why they're reconsidering a new location.

"The degree to which people in the neighborhood believe that we kind of snuck this into the neighbors, that there was no consideration of the neighborhood characteristics and that St. Vincent de Paul was doing this ahead of a due process and involving people and not getting fair market value for the property," McDonald said.

This announcement follows months of pushback from community members.

"It's fantastic that the school board and St. Vincent de Paul took the time, paused, backed up, talked to the community, listened to the wants and needs of the people in this community and balanced that with the kids who need to finish high school," said Bethel resident Vern Hayden.

"I think it's great that we're trying to find the best location for this house and the best location for the program ... not an easy one, not a convenient one but the best one," Hayden said.

Dwayne Raabe, a Bethel resident, said if the site were still to be located in it's original proposed location, he would be happy to have the boys as neighbors.

"How would I feel if I was a homeless teenager and school was a problem so I feel the 15 or so they would have living there and young people who want to make a change in their life," Raabe said.

Neighbors also told KEZI 9 News they did not feel involved in the early stages of the process and McDonald said he hopes to rebuild their trust.

Last week St. Vincent de Paul and the school district held listening sessions to hear feedback from community members.

The meetings consisted of multi-sided conversations, with some offering criticism of the location near Legacy and Avalon streets in the Meadow View neighborhood of Eugene and others offering praise.

McDonald said their next step is to look for locations and involve neighbors before any serious planning starts.

St. Vincent de Paul spokesperson, Paul Neville, previously told KEZI he would like to begin construction of the site in spring next year, but McDonald said that may need to be pushed back. However, he did say that it all depends on when they can find a new location.

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