Amendment allows homeless shelters for women, children

Published 6:03 pm Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Washington’s City Council, during its meeting Monday, will consider amending the city’s zoning ordinance to allow shelters for homeless women and children in specific areas of the city.

The Washington Planning Board unanimously voted to request the ordinances be amended to allow such shelters as a special use in two residential zoning districts (R-6S and R-9S) and in the office and institutional zoning district. This use is not specifically addressed in the zoning ordinance.

The proposed amendment reads: “Shelters for homeless women and children: An establishment operated by a governmental or non-profit agency intended to be used solely for temporary occupancy by homeless women and children.” Such shelters would need a special-use permit issued by the city’s Board of Adjustment.

The proposed amendment requires such a shelter have at least 15,000 square feet of space, that the maximum number of clients not exceed the number of beds in the shelter, or one person per 125 square feet of floor space (whichever is less), and continuous on-site supervision be provided during all hours of operation. Under the proposed amendment, individual occupancy is limited to six or fewer consecutive months and shall not exceed 300 days during a 12-month period.

At the council’s Feb. 13 meeting, Dot Moate, speaking for the Open Door Community Center, which received its nonprofit status last month from the N.C. Secretary of State Department, asked for a one-time startup contribution of $10,000 from the city. The council took no action on the request, indicating it would consider it during its budget work sessions in the coming weeks.

“What we plan on doing is purchasing or renting, preferably purchasing, a piece of property as a facility that we can modify according to what the state rules are and what the building inspectors are going to require us to have,” Moate said last month. “We are looking at several pieces of property. We haven’t selected anything in particular yet.” She did not identify the pieces of property under consideration for purchase.

As part of its services, Moate said, the shelter will help its women find jobs, if needed, and make sure children attend school. The shelter plans to partner with the women’s shelter in Greenville to provide access to medical and dental services and other social-services programs.

The council meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the Council Chambers in the Municipal Building, 102 E. Second St. To view the council’s agenda for a specific meeting, visit the city’s web­site at, click “City Agendas.” Locate the appropriate agenda (by date) under the “Washington City Council” heading, then click on that specific agenda listing.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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