I attended the Mandan Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Nov. 27. I felt disappointed, disheartened and frankly ashamed at the response of my community. I was open to supporting an emergency shelter at the North Dakota Teen Challenge building in the neighborhood where I live.
I certainly had questions about the logistics of operating a shelter at that location, but I believed a solution was possible. When the time came for public comment and the commission asked for those in support to speak first, there was collective laughter in the room, as if the idea of supporting the permit was absolutely preposterous. There was much discussion about the potential problems and very little discussion about how solutions could be reached.
During the public comment, the many generalizing and degrading statements of “they” and “them” in reference to people experiencing homelessness greatly discouraged me. Most sources cite that 60 to 75 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck; with a few unforeseen circumstances, many of “us” could easily become one of “them.” Perhaps it was not the right location to provide shelter for the members of our community who have none. Yet I left the meeting wondering this: If all the people who packed Mandan City Hall to oppose the permit had instead come together to solve our community’s current homelessness predicament, we would have a solution.
Elizabeth Kapella, Mandan