Homer Alaska - Letters

Story last updated at 6:49 PM on Wednesday, January 12, 2011

When is a homeless shelter, not ...

The city of Homer Board of Adjustment recently determined that in order for the Refuge Room to be a shelter for the homeless, it would need to be a building used primarily to provide on-site meals and shelter. It found that because the Refuge Room is not the primary use of the [main] building it cannot constitute a shelter for the homeless. However, the planning commission previously determined that "The Refuge Room ... fits within the definition of "building" which means any structure used or intended for supporting or sheltering any use or occupancy. HCC 21.03.040."

Just because a structure used primarily as a homeless shelter is attached to a larger structure primarily used for something else does not mean that the smaller structure does not constitute a homeless shelter. (If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck ...)

Why should a hostel be allowed to occupy a small portion of a larger building while a shelter for the homeless cannot?

The Refuge Room and its primary use had to be considered distinctly from the (mostly unidentified) uses of the main structure since the application at issue specifically addresses the Refuge Room and not the Refuge Chapel and its adjoining structures and/or uses.

The BOA determined that because all guests of the Refuge Room are screened for criminal offenses and may be turned away, it must be a hostel instead of a "traditional" homeless shelter, whatever that is. (There are no provisions in Homer City Code requiring that a homeless shelter be "traditional" or that a hostel screen for criminal offenses).

The BOA determined that Refuge Room's daily fee of $10/day is not "nominal." (The planning commission previously determined that it was).

The BOA determined that, "Guests at the Refuge Room are not homeless when they first arrive." (This suggests that the Refuge Room is creating homelessness).

All of this is moot because the Refuge Room violates lot density requirements and should never have been built or occupied in the first place.

The planning commission's Sept. 3, 2010, findings and determination that the Refuge Room constitutes a shelter for the homeless are well-reasoned and supported by substantial evidence. The BOA's Jan. 7, 2011, findings are just plain ludicrous. It would be ironic if both decisions were written by the same attorney.

Frank Griswold