MATTOON -- Petitions are being circulated to gather community support both for and against the Mattoon Area PADS homeless shelter's proposed move to the 2400 block of Marshall Avenue.
PADS, which stands for Public Action to Deliver Shelter, is seeking a city special use permit for use of the former KAM Solutions building, 2413-2421 Marshall Ave., which has service commercial zoning.
Both petitions are set to be presented to city officials in advance of the Mattoon Planning Commission's hearing on the permit request at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 27 in City Hall. The commission's recommendation will then be forwarded to the Mattoon City Council for final approval.
Copies of the petition against the permit are available at Fred Biggs Electric Supply and Stewart's Automotive, which are neighbors of the proposed shelter site. Individual residents are also circulating copies of this petition. The petition organizers have placed a sign across the street from the proposed site.
Stewart's Automotive owner Duane Stewart emphasized that they are not against PADS, adding that this nonprofit group does good things in the community. Stewart said their concerns center on the proposed new location for the shelter.
Both Stewart and Biggs Electric President Tim Grissom said property that is just a couple of blocks north of Mattoon High School is not a good site for the homeless shelter. They said many high school students walk through this neighborhood and younger students use a nearby school bus stop on Marshall.
Stewart added that there is also heavy traffic congestion in this neighborhood before and after the school day, as well as during sports and other special events on campus. The two businessmen said they are also concerned about the proposed site being across an alley from the backyards of single-family homes.
In addition, Stewart said the Marshall Avenue site is many blocks away from the businesses and service providers that shelter guests might need to walk to during the day.
PADS has been operating out of a small former doughnut shop building at 2017 Broadway Ave. since the shelter opened there in 2003. The facility also offers a community soup kitchen.
Brittney Homann, who is a volunteer with PADS, said she has posted a petition in support of the special use permit online because PADS is in desperate need of a new facility. This petition is available at https://www.change.org/p/city-of-mattoon-il-support-rezoning-2417-marshall-ave-for-pads.
Homann said she volunteers for PADS because the nonprofit organization works to find long-term solutions to help get permanent homes for those who stay overnight at the shelter. She said the organization's day programming provides lessons on job skills and other life skills.
As a volunteer, Homann said cooks in the kitchen at PADS and brings her children with her to help prepare holiday meals there. Homann said she has always felt safe there, noting that PADS does not allow parolees or sex offenders to stay at the shelter.
She encouraged those needing more information about the shelter to call PADS at 217-234-7237 or attend the informational meeting that the nonprofit group has scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Knights of Columbus Hall.