Springfield’s Planning and Zoning Commission Wednesday approved the zoning change for a building on the east side that could become the proposed Center for Health and Housing. The center would provide emergency shelter, health and mental healthcare, and other services for those experiencing homelessness. The vote was 6 to 3 in favor to change the building’s zoning from industrial to office zoning.
The debate lasted two hours, during which residents testified against the proposal, citing safety concerns for children in the community.
Howard Peters, with the Springfield Urban League, said preschoolers utilizing the non-profit's programs would be too close to the Center for Health and Housing, which could be housed in a former state-owned building on the corner of 11th Street and Edwards.
“Pre-schoolers are the most vulnerable in this community. They are disadvantaged. That’s why they are in the Head Start program,” he said.
Peters said the Springfield Urban League supports helping those experiencing homelessness, but that it can’t be accomplished effectively and safely within the same space as educating small children.
Those in favor said the center would help consolidate social services in the area and help decrease loitering, which many residents said are other matters they want to see resolved.
The city council is set to vote on the proposal Sept. 17.