Sunday, March 30, 2008

Southeast Davidson Exurbs Predictably Oppose Christian Halfway House

The community meeting was besieged on Saturday by residents who were NIMBY about a proposal by Men of Valor to rezone their property to build what they call "a seminary" for ex-cons. While not unsympathetic to the neighborhoods' cause, I also figured that in their zeal to oppose this proposal, neighbors would resort to distorted and pejorative stereotypes about what happens in cities vs. donut communities that ring cities, and they did:

"There is no benefit," said Mike Marietta, who lives with his wife and a 2-year-old child less than a mile from the proposed development.

"I moved out of the city to get away from the drug users and pushers, and now they're bringing them here. They'll be released to our community, and if they decide they want to participate in the program, everything is great, but what about the ones that don't?"

Drug use and pushing happens in many different places in metropolitan areas outside of the city (although, I would grant that some rural and suburban dwellers drive into the city to get drugs, thus making our urban neighborhoods more dangerous). These kinds of poor arguments tend to reinforce the stupid notion that halfway houses should be relegated to urban neighborhoods, where most if not all crime is claimed to reside already.

Metro School Board Member and nearby resident Karen Y. Johnson has a much stronger proposal today about what the Men of Valor can do with their halfway house:
One question that was brought to our attention [at the community meeting] was that why since they had a large fundraiser at the Woodmont Hills church off Franklin Pike could they not build in this area? If you look at their distributed information, the majority of their supporters are from churches in the Brentwood, Franklin area, so why is it that this type complex is not being proposed off Franklin Pike? Why is it that Antioch has to continually be the area to help but no other area of the city is being asked to do the same?
I think that her suggestion gets to the heart of this problem, which is class. Upperwardly mobile (usually white) churches that flee to mostly upper-middle class and wealthy suburbs don't want mostly lower class ex-cons rehabilitating in their cushy communities. These faith-based ministries use more modest neighborhoods as vessels to motivate wealthier Christians to back them, which effectively keeps the ex-cons out of places like Brentwood, Franklin, and Cool Springs. But in fairness, them that finance the halfway house should be willing to live with it in their midst.

This controversy is not about living in the city or the suburbs. It's about class, pure and simple. And it's part of a class war that wealthier neighborhoods fight with money as their weapon and churches as their camouflage.


  1. You could not have said it any better. This happens all the time and it will take strong neighborhoods to stop them.

  2. I agree and again say that you are almost the only local news we have about current neighborhood issues.