[Hpn] Couple Appealing Ruling Against Housing Homeless

William C. Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Tue, 5 Jul 2005 07:54:47 -0400


Couple appealing ruling against housing homeless

July 5, 2005

The Associated Press

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - A couple in Hartford is appealing a town order to
stop operating a homeless shelter out of their house.

Ruth Lewis and Robert Search say in the last six months they've let 37
homeless people stay at their house, which they've named "House of Hope."
But the couple said they kept within town rules by having five or fewer
people stay with them at any time.

Last month the town ordered Lewis and Search to stop taking in the homeless.

Zoning Administrator Jo-Ann Ells said Lewis and Search were operating a
community residence out of a single family house. Ells said they need a
zoning permit and state license to continue their work.

"They were operating a business," Ells said.

Lewis said it's an issue of privacy, not business. "(Town officials) shut me
down in my private residence to say who I can and cannot have stay here."

Search and Lewis complied with the order, but have hired a lawyer and plan
to appeal the decision at meeting on Aug. 17. Lawyer Michael Reese said he
will take the matter to state court if the town doesn't reverse its

Search and Lewis said tension over House of Hope began after they talked to
town officials about expanding capacity to 12 people. Zoning officials
advised them to tell their neighbors about the plan, who responded with
concerns about safety and property values.

"It didn't get rave reviews," said neighbor Jeff Fogg. "It definitely isn't
going to make the street more desired, if I have to tell people I'm three
houses down from the shelter."

John Desnoyers, 53, said he supports helping the homeless but worried about
his 10-year-old daughter's safety. "I'd rather it be on a different street,"
he said. "Street people that are down and out can have alcohol and drug

Search said his neighbors' views of homeless people are misguided, adding
that House of Hope doesn't accept people who drink or use drugs. "They're
blinded by stereotypes," he said. "We're just helping people."

David Benoit, 30, said staying at House of Hope helped turn his life around.
Benoit moved into House of Hope last April after spending the winter in a
tent by the Connecticut River. Last month he moved in with a friend. "I had
a better perspective on life, and a better chance succeeding this time," he

  2005 Rutland Herald