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Shelter faces opposition
Organizers say residents will be controlled, occupied
ap WomenHome1
A public hearing notice sign has been put up in the front of the home that may become the future site for the Kirk Healing Center. The wording of the sign has neighbors concerned about the facility. - photo by Photo by Alena Parker.
A live-in center to help women get their lives on track may be derailed by neighboring residents who oppose having the group home in their neighborhood.
The Kirk Healing Center recently announced intentions to open in a home on MacArthur Street by the first week of August.
In accordance with the law, the Liberty County Planning Commission has informed neighbors with a sign, describing the facility that may open.
Bill Goodwin is among residents who are concerned and plans to attend a public hearing on at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Liberty County Courthouse Annex. He's worried about having disadvantaged women grouped in proximity to their homes.
"A lot of the citizens don't want it," Goodwin said.
He foresees a decrease in property value of his and other homes in the area if the center is there.
Dr. Alicia Kirk, the center's founder, believes opponents misunderstand the program's purpose and mistake it as a homeless shelter, attracting wayward women to the neighborhood.
She assures them it is not a shelter and plans to express that at the meeting.
"It's not going to be parolees. It's not going to be drug addicts," Kirk said. "They will be screened thoroughly."
If a woman passes an initial assessment, she will only be able to stay at the center for up to two months.
"Anyone that comes there will only be there temporarily because our aim will be to get them a permanent home that they can live in on their own," Kirk explained.
There will be live-in chaperones to supervise the women at all times.
"We're trying to help people, but we're not trying to destroy the neighborhood," she said.
The home would allow only four women to stay at a time.
Judy Shippey owned the home Kirk is hoping use and said she was "thrilled," when she was approached about it.
"She (Kirk) and Mr. Gary Dodd formed a partnership together and they arranged to buy the property from me with the idea of using it as the basis for the healing center," Shippey said.
Shippey inherited the property through her family and sold it last September when she found herself alone.
"I wanted to sell so that I could get to another part of town where I had friends and support and everything," Shippey said.
And she does not believe surrounding residents have anything to worry about since the women will be too occupied to cause disturbances.
A team of licensed volunteers will conduct in-house classes.
In addition to "basic living skills," classes will range from counseling and behavior modification to financial management and parenting.
The center will also help the women land jobs and their own homes.
"Our objective is to get them independent," Kirk explained. "We want to help people who want to help themselves."
The center will only accept those who "truly want to start their lives again," and open to receive "guidance and direction."
She anticipates most referrals coming from churches, but will also work with the city, Housing and Urban Development and the United Way.
The center will operate on donations and grants.  
"We've got so many beautiful people in this community who have helped me," Kirk said. "I couldn't have done it without the churches."
Nancy Kornegay, the center's co-founder, will join Kirk at the LCPC public hearing to address opponents.
"I'm glad they called attention to what their concerns were," Kirk said. "We want to show it as a healthy service for the community, not as one that's going to be detrimental."
To ease public anxiety and for the safety of the women, Kirk already arranged to have the police department periodically patrol the home and assist in security.
As a retired teacher and active member of First United Methodist Church, Shippey said she is all about helping people.
"I'm just really, really pleased that my former home is going to be able to be used in such a worthwhile, high purpose," Shippey said. "It's not, absolutely not, a negative impact at all."

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