The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Apr. 8, 2020

NIMBY has home where fear lives

To the Editor:

On Monday night, February 24, 2020, on a cold and rainy night, NIMBY was welcomed as an official citizen of the City of Van Wert, Ohio.  No, there wasn’t a parade or a party, NIMBY was welcomed by a vote of 4-3 of the Van Wert City Council. NIMBY, whose full name is “Not in My Back Yard”, was welcomed when the existence of the Haven of Hope homeless shelter that would have provided homeless men a warm, dry, and safe place to sleep for the night was denied for the third time, twice by City Council and once by the City Zoning Board of Appeals.  

In refusing to offer the supporters of Haven of Hope an answer to the question: If we are not allowed at 233 N. Market, then where do we fit in the City Code. After four months of deliberations — after the mayor, the zoning inspector, the city safety-service director, and city law director have all expressed the same opinion that Haven of Hope should be a permitted use under the current City Code — City Council stated that it was too busy running the city to provide any guidance after taking the vote.  

The citizens of Van Wert are left to conclude that City Council will do whatever it takes to keep a men’s homeless shelter from opening.

The fear of what could be has overwhelmed the reality that homeless men and women already live in Van Wert.  Stories “found” on the internet listing the worst possibilities have welcomed NIMBY with open arms rather than open our eyes to the reality of what already is. 

I John 4:18 says: “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  The fear of the worst stories of the homeless as carriers of disease, drug abuse, and criminality from massive cities such as Los Angeles and New York City drove out the love we should have for those most in need in our community.

The refrain, consistently, from those opposed to the location of Haven of Hope at 233 N. Market was: “We care about the homeless, we just don’t want it in our backyard.”  

Instead of stepping up and offering to help, to participate in the shelter, to have a hand in shaping what the shelter could be; instead of accepting the invitation to be a part of the solution, a tremendous amount of time was spent spreading stories of fear among the nearby residents, time that could have been used to help instead of hinder. Fear has cast out love. And as long as fear casts out love, then NIMBY will have a warm, dry, and safe place to live in Van Wert.

The policies and procedures codified in the ordinances of the City of Van Wert are supposed to exist to protect the rights of ALL citizens of Van Wert.  On February 24, City Council instead chose to ignore those ordinances to grant NIMBY residence here.

We complain that no one is doing anything to help overcome the problems we have in our city and in our country. We “Like” and “Share” memes on Facebook and Twitter claiming we should help homeless veterans and families in need. We proclaim that the government is not the answer and that public programs are the enemy. But when a group of private citizens attempt to help make things better, we find that NIMBY has found a home in our town.

So the next time you forward something about homeless people on the internet, the next time you complain that no one is doing anything to help, remember, instead of letting love cast out fear, NIMBY was welcomed into our community, and has found Van Wert a welcoming and comfortable place to live.

Rev. Kurt Tomlinson, senior pastor
Trinity United Methodist Church
Chair, Haven of Hope Board
Van Wert 

via email

POSTED: 02/27/20 at 10:46 pm. FILED UNDER: Letters to the Editor