On the 600 block of Nolan Street, volunteers at the Catholic Worker House serve their faith on hot plates at lunch time.
Every day the homeless and needy find refuge from the mean streets at this east side ministry that has been working in the area for more than 30 years. The homeless flock to the center to find shade, healthy food, cool drinks, and comforting services.
While the ministry serves with compassion, not everyone in the area is as sympathetic to the behavior of the people they serve. Carsten Griffin moved into the area almost two years ago. He said that after living on the north side for years, he wanted to be closer to downtown opportunities.
Griffin said that he knew there were ministries in the neighborhood working with people who are homeless, but he had no idea how significant the issue was.
“On a fairly daily basis there’s very loud yelling and profanity and garbage thrown in the yard," Griffin said.
While Griffin admits that most of the trouble is caused by a very vocal minority of people from the center, he said that the kinds of behavior he and his neighbors are subjected to are troubling.
"Fights in front of my house tend to be scary, yeah," said Griffin, who provided a clip of surveillance video from a camera mounted on his front porch showing such behavior.
The clip shows several combatants yelling at one another as they walked up the block followed by several punches thrown between two people.
“As recently as this week when I was driving down the street, there were people that were literally having a fist fight in the street,” Griffin recalled.
Griffin said that he believes the staff at the center make an effort to be good neighbors but that they have limited control over the people to whom they minister.
“I’m not sure what they can do to control their own clientele. We’ve had very aggressive panhandling and cat-calling,” Griffin described.
Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association President Brian Dillard said that the Catholic Worker House is not the only facility causing concern.
Dillard said that there are five ministries serving the homeless in or near the neighborhood.
“We’ve got Hope House, the Catholic Worker House, the Strong Foundation, Salvation Army and the Church Under the Bridge,” Dillard said. “We never really came together around these ministries to determine how we’re going to work with them or how they’re going to work with us, and that’s what’s coming to a head now.”
Dillard added that he wants to bring everyone to the table, within the next month or two, to talk about solutions to their common challenges.
"I want this to be a conversation, because we're all partners in the same ecosystem and it's all about how we make sure that everybody works together for the betterment of this neighborhood and this community," Dillard said.
Chris Plauche is the volunteer director of the Catholic Worker House. She said that they have been working diligently for years to find a more suitable home but they have never been able to close on a deal for various reasons.
Plauche said that, over the years, they have made some operational changes to be better neighbors. Everyone who comes to the facility for services must register, so they are able to track the people they serve. The staff works diligently to keep the peace at the center and Plauche said that anyone who is identified as a troublemaker will be banned from the facility.
Plauche also said that when disagreements break out at the facility, the staff will separate those involved and send them on their way in different directions so that they will not cause issues in the neighborhood.
She also noted that they have met with neighborhood leaders in the past and she looks forward to doing so again to find new solutions.
For more information about the Catholic Worker House, you can visit their official website here.
The Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association also has an official Facebook page.
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