Anonymous attacks and fear-mongering have stopped a potential re-development of Sholom Home in St. Paul’s Como Park neighborhood before it even got to the drawing board. RS Eden had asked for a community conversation on the possibility of redeveloping Sholom Home as supportive housing, but withdrew that request October 7 after an anonymous campaign divided the neighborhood.
RS Eden, a nonprofit agency, has provided transitional housing for the chemically dependent and formerly incarcerated since 1971. Beginning as a service for substance abuse treatment and correctional residential programs, it has evolved into a multi-faceted organization that facilitates change in the areas of chemical dependency, family services, corrections and affordable housing.
In August, RS Eden president Dan Cain met meeting with the District 10 Land Use Committee, the neighborhood group for the area under consideration. He planned to meet October 23 with community members and Ward 4 Councilmember Russ Stark to discuss the prospect of going forward. Noting the possibility of resistance from residence in the area, he said, “Before we’d make a purchase offer, we’d like to meet with the neighborhood and hear what the neighborhood has to say.”
For an earlier view, see Debate on Sholom Home site heats up by Roger Bergerson, The Park Bugle
Opposition came quickly and forcefully. Cain recalled that within days after the August meeting, 800 flyers were placed in mailboxes and on doorsteps, spreading misinformation.
“They paraphrased some of what went down at the meeting without telling the whole story. Talking about it as if it’s a proposed project. They said we’re going to put 129 recovering addicts in this facility. All that was said was the building would support 129 units [at most].”
Cain also said that the number of Minneapolis Police Department calls related to RS Eden’s Alliance Apartments Project were cited out of context on the flyers. He stated that among the 132 calls placed over a 12-month period, “there are things like ‘suspicious car,’ ‘suspicious person,’ ‘lost child.’ People are entitled to argue for the neighborhood, their families. On the other hand, I’m not willing to listen to whoever yells the loudest to keep us out.”
However, his Oct. 7 open letter, which www.stopeden.com printed on their website, announced, “RS Eden has decided against pursuing a supportive housing development at the site of the Sholom Home. Chief among [the reasons] was a plea from a neighbor to move quickly toward a decision, as the neighborhood was tearing itself apart (their words, not mine).”
Twin Cities Daily Planet called the District 10 Council, attempting to interview those responsible for the website and was informed it is posted anonymously. The individual e-mailed the Daily Planet to sound an alarm about Eden House, but then refused a request for an interview. He is also the person to whom Cain attributes the 800 flyers.
Before RS Eden succumbed to pressure, Como Park resident Ryan McNaughton said, “I joined the [Internet] Yahoo ‘Como_Neighbors Group’ [and] discovered that voicing my own opinion [is] fruitless. They conduct wild speculation fueled by ignorance, hysterical portraits of imagined boogeymen and simple discrimination.” He called the Stop Eden website “ethically specious. A potential RS Eden site…as well as any other proposed use of the site, deserves a fair hearing.”
Julie Streitz, who also lives in Como Park, said, “Someone or some group of individuals has been canvassing my neighborhood, dropping off offensive postcards and tacking up posters designed to exaggerate the stigma around addiction. As someone who lives in the Como neighborhood, I will be doing a little canvassing myself. I will be talking to all of my neighbors about these despicable attempts to condemn RS Eden for its attempt to do something good for our fellow citizens in need. We need to be informed. I will not be swayed by a hateful person or group whose one-sided opinion is obviously faulty and misinformed.”
Cain states in his letter, “I was particularly surprised at the attacks on Council Member[s] Stark and [District 10 Land Use Committee Chair] Luke Kuhl, both for doing nothing beyond saying they would support a fair and open discussion. Then there was the implication that [Director of the St. Paul Office of Planning and Economic Development] Cecile Bedor had somehow exhibited nepotism because she told a developer, who happened to also be a friend, about the availability of this site, along with six others. Council Member Stark, Luke and other neighbors who were verbally attacked for arguing for fairness, did nothing to deserve the response they got. We are not willing to be
the lightning rod for its continuation.”
RS Eden’s expressed intent was to see whether it could be worked out for Sholom Home, an abandoned nursing home, to be put to positive use.
“I believe that the people who are open minded about the possibilities have a right to an informed decision making process,” says Cain. “And they have the right to get their information, not from some inflammatory, manipulative and false propaganda, but from the facts, and the people who have experienced them. I know that an affordable housing project, with the support of the neighborhood, can not only be an asset, but can enhance the vitality of an area, increase property tax revenue and augment public safety. And I also know that we operate some of the best, and most accountable, supportive housing in the region.” All of which, now, is a moot point.
Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the TC Daily Planet.