SPOKANE, Wash. - Ask Terri Mayer, executive director of Open Gate if she expected Wednesday night's open house to go the way it did and she'd say--
"No., not at all," Mayer said.
The meeting was planned by Open Gate so the Westview community could share concerns about their new transitional house moving into the neighborhood. Open Gate is a program that provides housing for offenders just release from prison.
"I've just never seen so many angry people over people's lives," Mayer said. "It's just amazing."
Roughly one hundred people were in attendance, giving new meaning to what it means to be a community united.
"In Westview we value permanent residency," one person said. "We value the chance to get to know our neighbors and know who they are to build the community to grow together, to trust each other and that opportunity does not exist with this house."
The residents were mostly upset that they were blindsided by the opening of the home.
"When you look up the definition of 'felony' those are the people that you don't want eight blocks away from our elementary school," Katie Grote said.
Others worried about what having a transitional house would do to the property value on their own home. However, not all were residents of the Westview community. Some came out to show support for the upset neighbors, others for the people in the transitional home.
"It's just not fair to the individuals who have already served their time," Justin Pimsanguan said. "They already did their time and now they're trying to make a better life for themselves."
According to city code anyone operating this type of housing has to apply for a conditional use permit. However, there is a loop hole.
"In the state of Washington there's been a determination that group homes or group living situations should be allowed in a single family dwelling just like other types of uses that we have to treat them equitably," Heather Trautman said.
Trautman is the director of neighborhood services for the City of Spokane. She said the city will investigate whether or not Open Gate home falls under that category. In the meantime, Mayer said she'll comply with whatever the city requests.
"I will work with them and make this right," Mayer said.