The Pryor Times


February 6, 2013

Housing ordinance on hold

Controversy arose at the Pryor City Council meeting Tuesday over the special residential housing facilities ordinance.

The city attorney announced the second reading of the ordinance, the first being at last month’s council meeting. Mayor Jimmy Tramel moved to table the issue another week, but Councilman Drew Stott made the motion to open the floor for discussion.

People from both sides of the argument came to state their case. Local businessman Ivan Williams said, “I have had the opportunity to serve at the women’s ministry, Outreach of Hope which is also known as the Miracle House. I have seen some miracles there. The goal is to help woman change their behavior and change their life.

“Let’s reflect on the Pryor that I’ve known for 56 years. Mr. Whitaker set up Whitaker Children’s home and changed thousands of lives. Lots of people objected to Thunderbird coming to Pryor, they didn’t want troubled teens in the community,” said Williams. “With the help of Lucy Belle Schultz we got them here, and look what an asset they’ve been to the community. Mr. Graham left his entire fortune to the city of Pryor to make a difference.”

He said Pryor is a community with ministry centers, free clinics and hard working people.

“This is who I believe Pryor is, we’re a caring community. Don’t make ordinances to make it so tough to have these facilities, they will benefit our community,” said Williams.

Tim Bonea stepped forward to present the opposing view.

“I understand and respect Ivan, but I have concerns about this project. Our biggest concern needs to be our youth, and protecting our youth,” said Bonea.

“I live nearby. Dealing with these sort of programs there will always be trouble. I don’t believe any business should be operating where there are so many children. Would you want this next to your house, your kids, your grandkids? There are better places for it,” said local citizen, Dennis Bowman.

The council remained silent as one last person stood to voice an opinion.

“My name is Brandy. I am a resident of Miracle House. I am somebody’s daughter, and somebody’s mother. I have made some terrible choices in my life, I’m not denying that. If I didn’t have a place like Miracle House, where would I go? How can people change their lives if we don’t give them a place to do it?”

Outside the meeting, director of Miracle House, Renee Hobbs, explained the situation.

“We are a non-profit group and have been in Pryor since 1992. Certain members of the community are trying to dehumanize these women. They are trying to kick them out,” said Hobbs. “We are OK with having drug addicts as neighbors, but somehow a problem arises when they are trying to get clean.”

Hobbs said there are differences between half-way houses, treatment residences and rehabilitation centers.

“I agree restrictions should be made, but we can’t do so when we are grouping all of these things together and treating them as if they are the same.”

Hobbs said she has been the director for six years and during that time the facility has changed what it does. When it began, there were problems with some residents, but now the rules are more strict.

“We help women that want help, that want to change their life. We don’t just take anyone in off the street,” said Hobbs. “The house is for women ages 18 and up. There are house rules. They have a curfew, they are required to attend classes and they are required to volunteer in the community.”

She said the women volunteer at Dam J.A.M., Relay For Life and Great Days of Service, they understand the need to give back to the community, and they enjoy doing it.

“The issue right now is that our need is so great, we want to open a second house. The corner of 17th and Willow was a possible location, but the new ordinance won’t allow it. We also want to change the structure we are currently in, adding laundry and storage facilities, but the ordinance prohibits it.”

In the City Council meeting, the council voted to table the issue until the next meeting.

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