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APR 07 - APR 14, 2015

The How and "Y" of Proposed Homeless Shelter Must Be Explained

By Anna M. Howard

April 07, 2015

Rev. Shaun Smith will take over the YMCA and turn it into what?

When it comes to casino revenue expenditures, budget preparation, project proposals and the overall actions of Mayor Dyster's city hall, it is secrecy and non-transparency that rule the day. And with regard to the planned sale of the YMCA building to the Gospel Mission, for re-use as a homeless shelter, the rule of secrecy is not only firmly in place, it is especially resistant to probing by a curious public.

With details on the Sale of the Y being withheld, and with the major players in the deal (YMCA, Gospel Mission, Mayor Dyster, Social Services, Niagara County government) meeting behind closed doors for the past year, it's expected - in the face of zero transparency - that rumor and gossip would fill the information gap.

Until the actors who designed, and or, supported the homeless shelter come forward in a sincere spirit of disclosure we have only those rumors and that gossip to work with.

This Y building sale/project typifies the secretive nature of the Mayor Dyster administration. An administration that governs through obfuscation and non-transparency. There's a very good reason why some elected officials prefer to operate in the dark and behind closed doors: they don't want you to know what they're planning.

The mayor appeared on the Vince Anello show February 5 and when a caller asked, "Do you support the YMCA homeless shelter?" the mayor said, "I'm a Democrat and that means showing compassion for the less fortunate. I never had to sleep on the street. If that is the highest use for the building then God bless them."

While the mayor played the role of the calculating politician by tossing God into the debate it's now believed he was far from being an initial uninvolved observer of the project. He now appears to have been aboard with the project from the beginning.

While the Y has made scant comments on the exact nature of the real estate transaction it's now believed that the Y's administrators had planned to sell the building to the Gospel Mission for more than a year.

While the Gospel Mission has been tight lipped throughout the past year, they have only recently made the most meager of efforts to shed light on their long-range plans to use the building as a homeless facility.

No entity involved in this transaction - city, county, Gospel Mission, YMCA, social services - has made the slightest effort to provide any meaningful details as to the planned transition of the Y building into a homeless facility.

Will the facility serve men, or men and women, or women and children, or men, women and children?

Will the facility, as part of its "charter," draw its clients from Niagara Falls or Niagara County or from across western New York?

The Reporter understands that a member of the city council recently attempted to gain information on the Y sale by seeking a meeting with Gospel Mission representatives. The efforts of the elected official were suddenly moot as the imminent sale of the building was reported, making the search for details essentially meaningless...the deal was done and had, for all intents and purposes, been done for many months.

This newspaper, and members of the Niagara Falls community, can only speculate as to what is really taking place here with the transitioning of the YMCA building into a Gospel Mission administered homeless shelter because in the absence of freely shared information we only have guesswork to rely upon.

And whose fault is that?

The Time has come for the homeless shelter deal-makers to reveal themselves in a spirit of community goodwill and transparency and to explain what they are planning for the Y building as it moves from its current state into a very different status as a homeless facility.

The building, in its incarnation as a homeless shelter, will not exist in a vacuum. It will exist as a member of the Main Street business community with all of the reasonable rights, expectations, and responsibilities that attach to that.

Transparency leads to understanding while political gamesmanship leads to disharmony in the community.

The choice between the two should be an easy one to make for the project developers.





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