EDWARDSVILLE - During their regular meeting on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, the Madison County Board spoke about the Salvation Army’s New Hope House.

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The New Hope House is a proposed 48-bed transitional housing shelter. The Salvation Army has suggested many locations in Alton where it could be built.

Previously, the Madison County Grants Committee approved a $2.5 million HOME Investment Partnership/American Rescue Plan (ARPA) grant for the Salvation Army for the purpose of building the New Hope House. After hearing several comments and concerns about their original plan to build the shelter at 525 Alby Street in Alton, the Salvation Army asked that any action on the grant be deferred until they could find a new location for the shelter.

State’s Attorney Tom Haine explained that Denise Wiehardt, chair of the Grants Committee, had then withdrawn the matter from consideration before the Board.

“At that point, the sponsor of the matter before the Board, which in this case would be the committee chairwoman of the Grants Committee, withdrew that from consideration by the Board, which kills the matter,” Haine said. “Under our ordinances, items are either moving forward, in which case they have a sponsor, a Board member has to sponsor every item, or they are dead. There's no neutral. So once a Board member withdraws the matter from the Board’s consideration, it has to restart the process.”

This means the Board does not currently have any action it can take on the New Hope House. The Salvation Army would have to resubmit their proposal to the Grants Committee to be considered before the Board.

However, on June 7, 2024, Madison County Community Development released new Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) guidelines that would require any shelter to be “geographically central to the County.” Specifically, the shelter must be located within five miles of the County Administration Building. This is a requirement for the shelter to be eligible to receive the HOME-ARPA grant.

At the County Board meeting on June 18, 2024, three community members spoke against this new guideline. A few Board members also raised concerns about the five-mile radius guideline.

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“The five-mile limitation is just a screwy limitation that blocks out Alton,” said Bill Stoutenborough, Board member.

Stoutenborough moved to strike the geography element from the NOFO requirements, but since it was not on the agenda, the Board could not vote on this.

Haine reminded the Board that this was not different from any other request for proposal (RFP), and Board members are “never involved in the drafting of an RFP except through these kind of offhand conversations with the administration.” He encouraged Stoutenborough and others to speak with Community Development and voice their opinions.

“Now until July 15, the community has an opportunity to submit what are called letters of intent. Letters of intent say, we’d like to put in a bid, we’re going to submit for zoning, we’re going to try to get funding, and we think we could fit your parameters,” Haine explained. “If no entity decides they can fit the parameters, including the central location, then the Board can reconsider. Community Development can reconsider. The administration could reconsider. They could go a completely different direction. But there’s no danger of this money disappearing. The Board has until 2030 to spend this money for a transitional housing facility.”

Board member Mike Babcock thanked the community members who spoke. He pointed out that the Board is “still waiting on a decision from the City of Alton” and encouraged Board members to “relax.”

“I think if we just sit back for a second, relax, take a deep breath,” Babcock said. “This whole thing came to us, in my opinion, two months ago. We’re talking about a $7 million project. We’re talking about a project that’s going to affect a lot of people positively and maybe some people in a negative way…We as a Board, 26 members here, I think we can figure this out. I think we’re smart enough to take the time necessary to figure out if this is what our taxpaying citizens want…I don’t think this is the end of the story. I don’t think this is a do-or-die situation.”

Board member Alison Lamothe said she had “some issues with the timing.” She noted that she had received several emails in support of the New Hope House.

“Essentially what it looks like to some people, the Salvation Army in particular, that we pulled a $2.5 million rug out from under them while they were going through a process that hadn’t yet played out,” she added.

Most recently, Alton’s City Plan Commission voted not to recommend a special use permit for the New Hope House at 1000 Oakwood Avenue in Alton. The recommendation will go before the Alton City Council at their regular meeting on June 26, 2024.

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