LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - After one click of the “send” button, a Little Rock non-profit stopped its plans to buy a house for young, homeless LGBT people.
Lucie’s Place canceled a zoning hearing that was scheduled to take place later this week before the Little Rock Planning and Zoning Commission. Penelope Poppers, the agency’s executive director, said she withdrew her request after receiving an email that promised to destroy the privacy of the group home should it be approved.
“That email is the exact reason why we have to exist here at Lucie’s Place,” Poppers said.
Poppers used the Nextdoor app and website to communicate with homeowners in the Leawood neighborhood about the proposed group home. It would provide transitional housing for seven clients of Lucie’s Place, who are homeless, part of the LGBT community, and typically between the ages of 16-24.
“We sent out the handbook, rules and regulations, and I wrote up a very lengthy post, sort of explaining every single detail of the home,” she explained. “You know, what some frequently asked questions are when we move into a neighborhood, and things like that. And so, I wanted to make sure that we went above and beyond and gave the neighbors all of the information that they could possibly want, so that they felt like they could make an informed decision.”
Poppers said most of the feedback she got from potential neighbors was positive. But the email, which came from a woman who claimed she used to run a homeless shelter in Houston, was enough to postpone the project.
The sender claimed she opposed the group home because it would impact the safety of her children.
“I am aware of the dangers involved,” she wrote, “from a resident disclosing the location of the home, to a person tracking them down, to sneaking drugs in, to having a criminal background that's undisclosed, etc.
“This is a terrible idea for our neighborhood! If this passes, I will make it my personal mission to get all of our neighbors involved in disclosing the location of this home to anyone that we can and fighting the forward motion of this plan.”
Poppers claimed the home would provide a quiet place where homeless LGBT teens and young adults can stay for free until they develop the abilities to live on their own.
“They get a job, they continue their education,” Poppers stated, “and then they just learn the life skills that we all learned from our parents, but that they often weren’t able to learn from their parents or guardians because those homes were, you know, maybe not the most stable.”
Poppers said she believed the threats in the email were sincere. While the address of the home was made public as part of the permit application process, Lucie’s Place does not publicize it, or the location of its currently-operating group home, to protect the privacy of its clients and residents.
“If residents are escaping abusive situations or violent situations, they need to be somewhere where they’re not worried about their friend or family member—whoever they’re running away from—finding them,” Poppers stated.
Lucie’s Place’s first group home has space enough for four residents, while Poppers hopes the second home has seven or eight beds. But she said nearly all of Lucie’s Place’s 70 clients could benefit from a home like this.
“It’s very urgent that we open as quick as we can,” she said, “so that we can start getting folks off of the streets, or getting folks out of the shelters where they’re unsafe, and get them into a home where they can, you know, get on their feet and move forward in life.”
Poppers said she is still working with a realtor to find a home that will be a good fit.
Below is the full text of the email sent to Lucie’s Place:
“I just received notification that there is some sort of halfway house or homeless shelter being proposed on Harmon, For LGBTQ persons who are at risk of being homeless. We are supposed to make clear if we oppose or support this idea.“We are completely and 100% opposed to this happening in our neighborhood! While I am completely in support of helping any who are in the situation of homelessness, and used to run a shelter myself in Houston, I am absolutely opposed to this happening in our residential neighborhood. We purchased a home in this neighborhood specifically because it was safe for our children. I do not want to live anywhere near a home like this. Since I have personal experience running a home like this, I am aware of the dangers involved, from a resident disclosing the location of the home, to a person tracking them down, to sneaking drugs in, to having a criminal background that's undisclosed, etc. This is a terrible idea for our neighborhood! If this passes, I will make it my personal mission to get all of our neighbors involved in disclosing the location of this home to anyone that we can and fighting the forward motion of this plan. This is absolutely unacceptable for this area. I've talked to all the neighbors within 500 feet of our house, and every single one of them feels the same way. We will all be attending the meeting to voice our opposition, but if this goes through we will disclose the location of this home to anyone who wants to know, and will fight this every step of the way. I cannot even believe that you would be considering opening a home of this nature in a residential neighborhood, that has many many children all around it. Not to mention elderly, Christians who completely oppose that lifestyle, etc. please take this idea and plant it elsewhere. I think it's a wonderful idea, just not in this neighborhood!”