According to the story in the Gazette, a lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by Mark A. Toor and Allyn Turner against the Rae of Hope Fellowship, an East End women's shelter. The suit claims that residents of the shelter have created a nuisance and the plaintiffs are seeking to have it shut down.
There is more to this story than meets the eye. Much more.
If you have casually followed the story in the paper, you might know that Mr. Toor was the subject of a court order to stay off of the shelter's property. He also failed to appear in court in the matter and was fined $500.
So now Mr. Toor and his wife, both lawyers, have decided to escalate the fight and use their their legal expertise and contacts to try to force the shelter from its home.
Mr. Toor is a legal manager at Legal Aid, which makes it sound like he's one of the good guys. After all, Legal Aid is all about helping the poor, powerless and needy with legal assitance. It would follow that the people who work there are kind, compassionate souls who are altruistic in all their endeavors, right?
But a quick Google search reveals that Mr. Toor spent time laboring as a corporate attorney for coal industry interests. Turner works for the WV Coal Association. Not that makes them bad people, but in the culture of Left vs. Right we find ourselves living in where every person's actions are judged on where they stand ideologically and politically, it is interesting that the industry that is most often seen as the villian by West Virginian liberals is where these two lawyers made a lot of money. And now it seems they are showing their true Snidely Whiplash colors and foreclosing on the family farm because it has inconvenienced them.
If I were in charge of public relations or the Coal Association, I would not want these two employees pursuing this suit.
But this is really nothing new. All over the country there are examples of people, quite often lawyers, doing their dead-level best to get shelters, housing projects and social service agencies thrown out of their homes because they make neighborhoods less perfect. We can't have all of THOSE people milling about outside our Victorian fixer-upper when we have our wine and cheese receptions, can we? The concept is called NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard. Every housing agency and social service agency deals with it every day.
A few years ago, a friend shared with me this little parable he wrote. He intended to send it to the Charleston Gazette as an op-ed piece but decided against it because he knew it would ruffle too many feathers on City Council and he sometimes has to deal with them. So it has sat on my computer hard drive all these years waiting on a blog where it could be posted in anonymity. I thought about it as I read this story, and thought it's high time it was published:
Driving through Charleston's East End recently, I suddenly had an epiphany: There truly are too many social service agencies located in that area. Driving past Sojourner's I realized what a horrible shame it is that we have taken a perfectly good old building and have turned it into the eyesore that it is. Just think, if we had left it alone the 1500 block of Washington be a much more historical-looking neighborhood - just like the 1600 and 1700 blocks.
Yes! History! That's what we should strive for! As the buildings
begin to rot away we should rebuild them to original standards, using as much lead-based paint and asbestos as we can lay our hands on! We should make any new residential buildings in the area three or four thousand square feet with 10 foot tall ceilings. Of course, all of this cubic feet would require more energy, but it's a small price to pay. After all, we're talking history.
But I digress…
In the past few years I have noticed that City Council Persons from the West Side, from the East End, from North Charleston and South Hills, not to mention Kanawha City and the Elk River area (did I miss any?), have all expressed their resistance to having Social Service Agencies located in their wards. In so many community meetings I have attended I have heard these council representatives go to bat for their constituencies to keep "shelters", "soup kitchens" and other such pesky
organizations out of their neighborhoods. I have heard time and time again that social service agencies and their activities drive down real estate prices and drive up crime rates.
Social service agencies have their place, and surprisingly it's the only thing that everyone seems to agree on. The name of this place is "Somewherelse." I can't seem to find this place on any map, but
I know it exists because so many people agree that's where the social service agencies should be located. It sounds perfect, because from what people say about it no matter what you do there, property values will not be affected. Obviously inhabited by a very compassionate people, no one who lives in Somewherelse is bothered by the idea of poor people being visible in their neighborhood. The land must be very flat and the soil conditions must be ideal for construction, because according to the people who seem to know, anything can be built cheaper Somewherelse.
Affordable housing (which everyone knows is code for "low income housing projects") could be built very effectively in Somewherelse because that's where poor people want to live since it's close to all the social service agencies. Small, simple houses built with maintenance free exteriors like vinyl siding are simply not compatible with the historical look we want in our neighborhood, but it will fit in perfectly with a Somewherelse neighborhood.
As I said before, I don't know where Somewherelse is, so I haven't been there. But from what people say it sounds like everyone has enough to eat, everyone receives proper medical care, and everyone who gets sleepy at night has a place to sleep. Because there is job training and inexpensive housing being built by the non-profit builders that weren't allowed to build anywhere else, people can afford to own their homes making the neighborhood more stable. Sounds to me like a nice place to live; If you like that sort of thing.
I hope the citizenry of Somewherelse doesn't get fed up with every one else sending their poor and downtrodden to their community. If that happens, they might begin to resist the influx of social service agencies. The good news is that if that happens, we can always move them to Anotherplace.
Let's see…does anyone know where that is on the map?