Former Board President of Churches United Speaks Out - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Former Board President of Churches United Speaks Out

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MOORHEAD, M.N. -- The former Board President of Churches United is speaking out and defending a proposed Moorhead apartment complex.  

Some neighbors have voiced concern by saying there would be an increase of crime in the area. And, the city council said they are opposed to the project being built in the area. But, Churches United is continuing with the project. 

Reverend Doctor Paula Mehmel sent a letter to the Moorhead City Council on Wednesday to address the issue of stereotyping these vulnerable people. She said permanent supportive housing is needed right now for parents and children in our area. 

"I didn't believe the city council needed to give approval, but when I saw that they had unanimously voted to reject the site, not necessarily the project, but the site, I felt that I needed to respond," said Rev. Dr. Paula Mehmel.

She knows the struggles of being homeless. At a young age she volunteered at a local women's shelter and learned the importance of giving, especially to those in the greatest need.

One of things she said she found most disturbing over this heated debate is that people are openly judging and stereotyping those who have nothing. 

"They are people with stories," Mehmel told us. "And, the time that I've spent at the shelter, I've sat down at tables and I would invite people who are concerned to come in and visit with the residents hear their stories and learn, especially the elected officials. That's what I said in my letter."

This week, Mehmel wrote her frustrations out in a letter to the Moorhead City Council, expressing the importance to solve homelessness in our area. 

"The individuals that will be moving into this permanent supportive housing, they are not homeless," said Mehmel. "By moving into this complex they are developing permanent supportive housing. They are families, they are children, they are people who have been down on their luck."

She said the key is education, understanding and relationship building. Not labeling others. 

When two Fargo Police Officers voiced their opinions that crime rises wherever there is poverty, Mehmel strongly disagreed. 

"It's not necessary that you have to link someone being poor with crime," Mehmel said. 

Mehmel said the reality is that the location for this supportive apartment complex is perfect from a standpoint of availability to local services. Being near the buss line is convenient since many of these people don't have cars. 

She also said this will lead to job opportunities since there are many local businesses in the area. 
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