Some Columbia Street residents oppose mission move

·3 min read

Oct. 4—CUMBERLAND — Some Columbia Street residents are voicing opposition to the idea of relocating the Union Rescue Mission to 11 Columbia St.

The residents attended a recent meeting of the mayor and City Council to express their displeasure. The mission is currently located at 16 Queen City Pavement in the downtown where it first opened in 1963.

Rodney and Rose Raymond, who live beside the proposed location and Cathy Robinson, who lives across the street, spoke against the possible relocation.

"It doesn't belong in a residential area," Rose Raymond said in a recent telephone interview. "We have a lot of drugs in this area now. We have elderly (people) who live alone here. There is no grassy area for them, they will be all on the sidewalk or the steps. We don't want it up here, period. Look what it will do to our property values. We are older people. Who wants to go through moving now?"

The Raymonds said they have a petition opposing the move and have collected more than 60 signatures.

"We've had trouble before when people were in there. Plus with the COVID, are they vaccinated?" Rodney Raymond said. "It's just not a good place."

Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss said a move by the rescue mission was still being explored.

Robinson said that no one had approached any of the neighbors to discuss the situation.

"As far as I'm concerned it was done in secret," Robinson said. "I'm concerned for the kids and the elderly. If they don't make it into the shelter in time, will they sleep on someone's porch?"

Pastor David Ziler, director of the Union Rescue Mission, said the city wants to ultimately take over the property where the mission is currently located.

"The Cumberland Economic Development Corp. approached (us) and said they may have viable options and would we want to look at it," said Ziler. "The city said they want the property here because they want to develop it for a bus station or something. We are in the middle of them with the Rolling Mill project and Baltimore Street (project) ... we are in the middle of all that."

The former Brunswick Hotel building was razed in November 2017, clearing part of the area the mission is in.

"We are in an aging building by the railroad tracks and we are running out of room," Ziler said. "That is why we keep having these discussions. But to say we are confident we are moving to Columbia Street, we are nowhere near that. The size of it is kind of what we need, but we are not near that. We are at the stage of a feasibility study to see if it is even possible."

The Columbia Street site will need a study of the infrastructure, HVAC and fire code and sprinkler systems, according to Ziler.

"Columbia Street is an option. We can improve services in a bigger facility and it is close. But we don't know if it's a feasible place to consider at this point," he said.

Ziler said the mission wants to be in the inner city to serve the poor.

"No one wants a homeless shelter in their backyard, we get that," he said. "But if we are not here what happens? Then what problems would the city have? You could have petty thefts, stealing and break-ins; that stuff increases if we are not here.

"Right now the extra money is being cut back from the government. We are definitely seeing an increase since August. We are seeing an increase in meals. Groceries, gas ... it is all costing more. Desperate people do desperate things. Our services are there to make sure they are not doing desperate things."

Greg Larry is a reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Email him at glarry@times-news.com and follow him on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.

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