"I don't know if we're doing anyone any favors by blaming anybody versus finding more common, more sustainable solutions," said Stuart Ray, executive director of Guiding Light Mission.
The Heartside District is bounded roughly by Fulton and Wealthy streets and Grandville and Lafayette avenues. Guiding Light is located in the core of Heartside at 255 S. Division where it provides homeless men with temporary shelter, substance abuse counseling, employment assistance and biblically based mentorship programs.
'Throwing rocks' no answer
Propaganda Doughnuts closed its doors in July. The building's landlord, Bob Dykstra, said the store at 111 S. Division Ave. closed because its customers were harassed by homeless people, approached by panhandlers and needed to walk past intoxicated people who passed out on the sidewalks and in doorways.
Ray said he believes what happened to Propaganda Doughnuts is a recent example of why businesses need to work in tandem with human service agencies.
"I would think the business community would have some interest in engaging social service agencies in finding a solution," said Ray. "I'm not sure we're getting anywhere throwing rocks at each other."
Sustainable answers needed
Ray said the shop's closing — which was a block and half away from Guiding Light — reinforces the need to help the chronically unemployed and homeless population secure sustainable employment and affordable housing.
This means tapping into, and helping them discover, God's plan for them, according to Ray.
Talents don't include doorways
"I tend to fall on the side that God gave you gifts and talents and they weren't sitting in doorways," said Ray. "The other agencies may see it differently than we do. We've been in the reconstruction business for long time.
Ray said the problems cited by Propaganda Doughnuts are not new, rather punctuate an ongoing tension between the business community in the Heartside district and the homeless population. He does not excuse homeless people's off-putting behavior.
"I would not condone that kind of behavior," said Ray. "We at Guiding Light work to minimize that kind of behavior. There are numerous examples of the agencies attempting to set firm boundaries with their clientele and they have had fair success in doing that."
Collaboratively work is needed
Ray said he does not believe a business mulling the idea of locating in the Heartside district should shy from the idea if they work collaboratively with others.
But working toward solutions requires steadfastness.
"As long as we can't seem to get ahead of the housing crisis and can't seem to create economically sustainable employment, I'm afraid this is not helping the situation (lack of housing and sustainable employment)," said Ray. "To just blame each other is not going to help. All people do is dig in and start throwing rocks. We need to keep trying to come up with creative alternatives."