Zoning ordinance changes impact new halfway houses, industry concerned

Zoning ordinance changes impact halfway houses

EL PASO, Texas - A change to El Paso's zoning ordinance has those who run shelters, transitional housing and halfway houses looking to take action.

City reps and Mayor Oscar Leeser heard from people who are in the industry on Tuesday. All of them said they disapprove of the decision that requires: new halfway houses obtain special permits every two years to operate, they can't be within 1,000 feet of another shelter or halfway house, and they must be that same distance away from any church, school, park, library or home.

"We speak for thousands of people that are in our programs, in our shelters, that are going to be impacted by this zoning ordinance," Major Mike Morton from the Salvation Army said.

Morton is just one of the people disappointed in the changes approved by city council.

City Rep Eddie Holguin said the ordinance passed only affects new halfway houses, but shelter operators are concerned the definitions are too vague, and could cause the demise of shelters in El Paso. Rescue Mission Director Blake Barrow said he's not even sure if it will affect him or his residents. He and Morton said they're planning further action.

"We need to get with the Homeless Coalition, see what there is on a legal avenue because of the fact city council did not follow proper procedure. They should have gone to City Plan Commission, first. City Plan Commission never addressed it and instead city council decides putting it through anyway," Barrow said. He is concerned the ordinance may apply to the Rescue Mission because it is having to relocate in 2016 due to two major transportation projects.

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