Residents outraged over planned halfway house

By: Emi FitzGerald Email
By: Emi FitzGerald Email

GRAYSON COUNTY, TX -- We begin tonight in Grayson County with residents outraged over a proposed halfway house in their neighborhood. The owners of the property say they are just trying to give paroled inmates a second chance.

Many of the residents at a meeting Thursday night say they think anyone deserves a second chance, but in this case that chance should happen somewhere else.

The ministry’s leaders say just give them a chance to prove how these men have changed.

An overflow of residents crowds a house on Harrell road near Howe, standing in the cold and the dark, to show their concern.

"My husband and I are very concerned because we live 2 houses, about 750 feet from where this place is going in," said Dana Cherry, who was wearing her coat and standing outside in the chilly weather, listening through an open window.

Cherry is talking about what Mission Gate Prison Ministries calls a 'guest house' where ten men will pay $80 a week to live for a year. Many of them are out on parole, but show they have committed their lives to Christ and are active in a church before moving in.

"I think what they're trying to do is a good thing, the problem is they've put it in an extremely inappropriate place," said Robert Hunt, one of the meeting’s organizers.

Area leaders attended the meeting, and spoke unified on their opposition. Residents say no one told them the plans for the house in advance. When a neighbor went to welcome a couple to the street, they were told of the “guest house” program. The neighbor contacted county commissioners, the Sheriff’s Office, and the local parole office; those officials were unaware of the plans as well. This is most likely because the house is receiving no state funding, and is operating as a private facility.

"I don’t want it,” said Johnny Waldrip, Grayson County Commissioner, pct. 1. “If it was in my back door, I wouldn't want it on my county road; I don't want it in my precinct."

Waldrip said his hands are tied because the property is located in an unincorporated area, not subject to any zoning laws. The ministry did not break any laws when they bought this three-bedroom home on the 26 acre property.

"I'm not against people getting a second chance, I'm all for that. But I think it should be done a little farther out in the country."

A local contractor offered to buy this property and find a more suitable place for the facility. Ministry founder Rick Mathes says he would consider that option, saying he’s “not out to make a statement.”

KXII-TV spoke with Mathes over the phone Thursday and he tells us there would be no sex offenders or arsonists living at the home. Each person fills out an application, meets with a chaplain, and must be approved by an “Aftercare committee” comprised of community members. Unless the committee achieves a 100% consensus, they do not accept the candidate.

The person must also follow strict guidelines to stay in the program, including no drugs, alcohol, pornography, and must be involved in a church.

However, residents at the meeting are concerned if a person is kicked out of the program, they would be instead released into the local community. When questioned, Mathes says the person would go back to what he calls a “comfort zone,” and not stay in the community.

A Bible Study is scheduled at the home on 1589 Harrell Rd., and the public is welcome to attend.

Concerned residents say they plan to hold another meeting next week.

Here is a statement from Mission Gate Prison Ministries:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

Mission Gate understands that the local neighbors may be apprehensive about the prospect of former prisoners living in their area. However, we would appreciate it if they would check out our track record of over 20 years of experience in helping to rehabilitate Christian ex-offenders and reintegrating them into society as good citizens. Notice “Christian ex-offenders”.

They are visited in their jail or prison, they fill out a carefully crafted application, they must provide a testimony of their Christian experience, their references are checked out, the Chaplain is contacted and almost all of them are personally interviewed before they go before the Texas Aftercare Committee for final approval or rejection.

We are only interested in those that have truly given their hearts to the Lord and committed themselves to living a Christian life from this point on. They only need a second chance and we provide just that.

Visit our website at www.missiongateministry.org and read the posted information about our Fort Good Shepherd program in Cuba, Missouri or visit us personally.

They must join and attend a Christian Church and be active in it.
They have a 10 PM curfew.
They have classes every week night.
No alcohol, drugs, porno, or guests.
Must have job and pay weekly program fee of $80

Any infraction of these rules will result in immediate expulsion from our Guest House.

Go to our web site for further information and email me or I will meet with you personally at your convenience to smooth over you apprehensions. We will be an asset to this community and I ask your indulgence until there is a real complaint as to our performance as solid Christians that are a blessing to the Lord we serve.

Our services will be on Friday nights and you are all welcome to attend.

Jesus said, “What ever you do to these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you have done it to Me.” We fully intend to do that at this location and will not be dissuaded from our mission.

Thank you for this consideration and your patience to see our performance in time to come.

Press On!
Rick Mathes
Director of Mission Gate

original story:

GRAYSON COUNTY, Tex. -- Some Grayson County residents are concerned about a proposed halfway house in their neighborhood. The residents say Missouri-based Mission Gate Prison Ministries plans to convert a home on Harrell Road near Howe into a halfway house.

They say ten former inmates on parole would live in the house as they try and re-enter society.

A meeting is scheduled for Thursday night at 1832 Harrell Road at 7:30 p.m.

County officials are scheduled to attend as well.


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