Thanks to the Signal Tribune and reporter Michelle Lecours for covering the ongoing saga involving the proposed police substation and homeless accommodation at Willow and Grand [“Debate over mentally-ill homeless site stalls Schroeder Hall reuse again,” July 13].
As an advocate for area residents on this issue for the past four and a half years, I am very familiar with the communications between the neighborhood and Mental Health America (MHA). Considering the many hours invested by all participants, I am compelled to respond to a quote from the article that was attributed to Patrick O’Donnell:
Outreach by MHA to the neighborhood has been nonexistent, says O’Donnell. “MHA has done little to nothing, I would say more along the lines of nothing, to communicate to [the neighborhood], to meet with [the neighborhood], to address any of their issues. MHA is showing a total disregard for the neighborhood,” O’Donnell said.
Beginning in 2008, the Schroeder Hall area community and I met with MHA on multiple occasions. Most of these meetings included several area neighbors from both the 4th and 5th council districts, Joe Sopo and Mike Kowal from Neighborhoods First, and myself. Participants from MHA varied from meeting to meeting, but collectively they included: Dave Pilon, president and CEO; Chad Costello, director of public policy; Paul Barry, executive director of MHA Village; Shannon Legere, director of homeless services; Lesley Braden, director of homeless enrolled services; Kim Savage, attorney for MHA; and Charles Belknap, who handled contracts for MHA.
Patrick O’Donnell has done nothing to recognize the efforts of others on the Schroeder Hall project. His statement alleging that no communication ever took place shows a total disregard for the neighbors and community advocates who put their time and energy into persuading MHA to consider alternative sites.