The historic Tobey House in downtown Little Rock will soon be repurposed as a group living facility for young homeless people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Lucie's Place -- a nonprofit to support LGBT people who are currently or were formerly homeless -- had to get a conditional use permit and approval from the Capitol Zoning District Commission before housing up to eight clients in the home, which is located within the special zoning district in the 2300 block of Main Street.
The Commission unanimously issued the permit at an afternoon meeting Thursday.
Neighborhood opinion mostly favored the transitional living home locating there. The Zoning District received 25 communications in support, including neighbors and nearby community organizations such as Jericho Way Homeless Day Resource Center and the pastoral staff at First United Methodist Church.
One adjacent property owner had called to express opposition and one other person, who lives in Quitman but owns property in the area, emailed to say he opposed the home locating there.
This will be the second such house opened by Lucie's Place. The first opened in 2015. The organization was created in 2012 and says it has assisted more than 200 LGBT young adults.
"For many residents, this home will be the first accepting and stable home environment they have ever known," the application states.
The program is modeled after Little Rock's Our House shelter program, Immerse Arkansas and the Ali Forney Center in New York City.
Jericho Way Executive Director Mandy Davis wrote in a letter of support that LGBT homeless people face discrimination in Little Rock by shelters and service providers.
"A majority of shelter beds in the area are not accessible to people who are openly LGBT," Davis said.
Generally the zoning commission's rules prevent historic properties from being repurposed as group homes unless the clients are disabled. Penelope Poppers, executive director of Lucie's Place, made the argument in her application that since homeless youth are more likely to contract HIV and because testing positive for HIV qualifies a person as disabled, Lucie's Place should qualify for the conditional use permit.
She cited a City of New York study that said a homeless person is 16 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV compared with a housed person.
"HIV infection disproportionately affects homeless young people because they so often turn to sex with strangers to obtain the support and services they need (money, housing, food, transportation). Placing these young people in homes causes this survival sex out of desperation to stop and their risk of contracting HIV drops significantly," Poppers wrote in the application.
The Tobey House has four bedrooms. Lucie's Place plans to place up to two people in each room for a maximum occupancy of eight individuals. Two on-site resident advisers will manage day-to-day operation of the house.
Residents aren't allowed to have anyone over or reveal the home's location to anyone.
"This will minimize pedestrian and vehicular traffic around the home. Residents of the program will have a strict curfew, ensuring neighbors are not kept up by noise or activity in or around the home. With these measures in place, Lucie's Place believes that this program will be positively viewed in the neighborhood and local community," the application said.
There was no opposition at Thursday's meeting and the commission approved the request without discussion. The Mansion Area Advisory Committee had already voted 17-0 to recommend approval.
Metro on 10/20/2017
Print Headline: Zoning commission approves permit for 2nd LGBT facility