SPOKANE, Wash. - The opening of a halfway house in the Westview neighborhood has residents crying foul.
The home, operated by Open Gate, was opened about two weeks ago on North Drumheller Street in north Spokane.
Surprised might be a good word to describe how residents of the neighborhood felt when they discovered Open Gate had started a post-incarceration transitional home in the area. They've organized to move the home from the area, which now has residents of the halfway house calling foul too.
White picket fences, well maintained lawns, welcome signs … Westview has it all. Now it has one more thing. A halfway house for newly released prison inmates.
"I'd like to see the agency do fine but not in our neighborhood," said John Priddy.
John and Jan Priddy just found out about the home and, along with their neighbors, they're worried about living near convicted felons.
"Kids, the school a block and a half away and property values," Priddy listed some of his concerns.
Seven convicted felons are staying at the halfway house right now with a program director.
"I love my country and I want to serve," Open Gate resident Garnet Smith said.
Smith admitted he's made mistakes in the past.
"Sometimes it's not a matter of starting over it's a matter of getting on and I'm just trying to get on with my life and do something better than I did before," Smith said.
Without Open Gate Smith said he'd be lost.
"Under a bridge, you know?" he said.
Neighbors however said they were blindsided by the opening of the home and according to city code anyone operating this type of housing should apply for a conditional use permit, which would have facilitated a public hearing.
Spokane city spokesperson Julie Happy said that's something they should have done but didn't.
"So the CUP (conditional use permit) has not been determined at this time. It's under investigation based on the notification we've received today," Happy said.
Open Gate executive director Terri Mayer said everyone in the home has been evaluated by the Department of Corrections and approved to live at that location.
"We don't take sex offenders, we don't take arson and we don't take manufacturing drugs," said Mayer.
But residents said it's a matter of trusting your neighbor.
"We've had a number of conversations with people in our neighborhood and it's the same thing," Priddy said.
"They have the right to be there, they're a human being," said Mayer.
"If you can't see what we're trying to do to better our lives just leave us alone and we'll leave you alone," said Smith.
Open Gate has invited residents to an open house at the Northwest COPS shop on Wednesday at 6:30 where the neighborhood can meet the residents and share any concerns.