A former east McComb resident says the creation of a homeless shelter in the area is a good idea in spirit but that developers haven’t secured permits or asked neighboring businesses and homeowners for their blessings.
Chance Conerly, who lives on Highway 44, said he grew up in east McComb, where Sarah Conerly has established a shelter in a former garage.
Conerly said the intent behind the move is righteous, but organizers are going about it in the wrong way.
He said the move to place the shelter in the area could cause local residents and businesses to move away and might discourage economic development.
“My biggest concern is for the children and the single mothers in the neighborhood,” he said. “They’re worried about the idea.”
Sarah Conerly, of McComb, no relation, purchased the old garage at 116 N. Locust St. near Pearl River Avenue to provide refuge to men who find themselves without a place to stay. Now that building is called the Greater Hope Church of God in Christ Ministry Homeless Shelter.
Sarah Conerly, a retired nurse, made a habit of inviting the less-fortunate into her home for some hot food and a night’s rest. Her children became worried about that practice and offered to help her purchase a facility.
Sarah Conerly has said the issue is more severe in McComb than people may realize, and these people need a little compassion.
“You have to think about the people who are less fortunate,” she told the Enterprise-Journal in November. “There is a time when people fall on tough luck and you have to be able to lend a helping hand because we know where we’ve been but we don’t know where we’re going.”
The building, which has no insulation and little in the way of heating, needs extensive work. Several fundraising efforts have cropped up to support Sarah Conerly’s vision for the facility. She said she is looking for charitable donations after investing her savings in the project and maxing out her credit cards.
She has invited a number of men into the facility and off the streets.
Although the roof leaks and the building becomes quite cold at times, it serves as a refuge for some of the population of homeless people in and around McComb.
But Chance Conerly said she hasn’t secured the correct permits to open up a shelter and worries the move could bring negative impacts to the neighborhood.
Representatives from the shelter appeared before the city board at its Tuesday work session. McComb City Administrator Dirkland Smith said Sarah Conerly and representatives from the shelter are working with the city zoning department to meet city and state requirements.
In addition to his skepticism about the legality of the move, Chance Conerly said people experiencing homelessness, particularly those with substance abuse problems, need rehabilitation, not just a bed.
“She’s passionate, and I commend her for that,” he said. “But you can’t just do that within the city limits. You need permits to do that.”
He said those interested in helping the homeless might look to St. Andrew’s Mission and inquire about how they could lend a hand.
He said he isn’t against the idea of a homeless shelter for individuals in and around McComb, just the location chosen for the shelter and the haphazard way the facility has cropped up.
He said a better solution may be to construct a facility away from neighborhoods out in the county, where a professional rehabilitation staff could support homeless individuals.
“What they need is rehabilitation,” he said.
He said in addition to running a technology business he is also a professional contractor and said he would be more than willing to assist in the construction of such a facility — so long as it lies outside city limits.