Church plans halfway house City setting guidelines

HARLINGEN — A halfway house might be coming to town.

Cornerstone Church of Bayview has proposed housing as many as 30 men in a halfway house aimed at helping them recover from substance abuse.

So far, the church has not proposed a location.

Earlier this week, the church’s request led city commissioners to approve the first reading of an ordinance setting guidelines for halfway houses.

The city plans to use the guidelines to request any halfway houses currently operating comply with the ordinance.

In the past, organizations had not approached the city with proposals to open halfway houses, officials said.

“If there are halfway houses existing, we didn’t go through the process of having them apply for zoning. They just opened up,” Assistant City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez said yesterday.

The city has not received complaints about any halfway houses that might operate in town, officials said.

“There may be some in town already but they operate in a manner that they don’t stand out, so we haven’t had any complaints,” Gonzalez said.

He said the city plans to use the proposed ordinance to assure any currently operating halfway houses follow the new guidelines.

“We want to get them into compliance,” Gonzalez said.

The church’s plans

In February, Cornerstone Church requested the city approve zoning guidelines to allow the proposed halfway house to operate here.

“We will be establishing a long-term faith-based home for sober living,” Todd Palermo, the project’s manager, wrote to the city. “This home will be offering assistance for men who want to be in a safe ‘faith-based’ environment.”

The church, which plans to hire three full-time employees, has proposed meeting with local leaders to help select a location.

“We will be talking with residents, local officials and other business owners in the community about where we are planning to operate and solicit their support by explaining how your housing plan will benefit the community,” Palermo wrote.

“We will be explaining how a transitional housing facility will provide a steady environment to combat homelessness, vandalism and loitering.”

The city plans to allow halfway houses to operate in residential and general retail zones, Gonzalez said.

However, Gonzalez said, a halfway house serving as many as 30 men would likely be located in a general retail zone, because it would be too big to operate in a neighborhood home.

In a meeting Wednesday, commissioners supported the church’s proposal to open a halfway house here.

“They serve a good purpose for the entire community because these people do need a place to be re-introduced,” Commissioner Tudor Uhlhorn said. “We do need to integrate these people.”

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