Mary Hernandez stood outside the Lions Shelter at Lake Sacajawea Thursday among sleeping bags, tents and shopping carts stacked with belongings.
She and other homeless individuals often stay at the picnic shelter, or other spots along the lake, until curfew kicks in at 10 p.m.
Last winter, she and dozens of others stayed at the severe weather shelter hosted by Love Overwhelming at its 14th Avenue building.
Several Longview residents have raised concerns about the proposed location because its close proximity to both a preschool and elementary school.
Hernandez and others at the lake said Thursday they don’t pose a danger to children attending Kid’s World Learning Center or Kessler Elementary School.
“What are we going to do, talk to them?” Hernandez said. “We’re not scary. We’re just homeless.”
Jessica, who didn’t want to give her last name, said many of the homeless are parents and won’t hurt the school children. She said last winter, Love Overwhelming executive director Chuck Hendrickson brought his children to the warming shelter hosted by the organization.
“If he was not afraid of bringing his kids in there, why should anyone be?” she said.
Lori Mooney said she was born and raised in Cowlitz County, but since becoming homeless about two years ago, she feels like she’s being pushed out.
“I think people are trying to sweep us under a rug and pretend we’re not around,” she said.
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The Kelso Longview Ministerial Association brought its plan for the shelter at First Christian to the Longview City Council two weeks ago. The temporary shelter only would be allowed to operate when the city declares a severe weather emergency with temperatures higher than 100 degrees or lower than 32 degrees.
Many neighborhood residents voiced concerns at a Monday night community forum about the shelter’s impact on the preschool next door and the possibility of sex offenders slipping through security measures.
The association outlined its safety plan for the church during the forum, including upgrades to the building and adding security patrols. Staff and volunteers would screen for registered sex offenders, weapons, drugs and alcohol, according to the association. Shelter clients would leave by 7 a.m., and volunteers would sweep the neighborhood.
The Ministerial Association has asked Love Overwhelming to manage its shelter, if it gets the necessary permits.
The city on Thursday inspected the hall in First Christian Church where the Ministerial Association hopes to host the shelter, Community Development Director John Brickey told the council Thursday night.
The space needs some improvements to its doors, additional emergency lighting and updated smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
“Beyond that, it is in fairly good shape and should work fairly well for that purpose,” Brickey said.
Last week, Longview Mayor Don Jensen created a committee to explore alternative shelter locations. City Manager Kurt Sacha said the committee met Thursday and had a “good conversation,” and has made tentative plans to meet next week for further discussion.
Executive Director Frank Morrison said he is creating a business plan to present to the board.