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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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Julie Location: Howe on Jan 8, 2008 at 07:56 AM
    Would all of you bible beating rednecks just stop and think. Did Jesus keep the people safe that the convicts hurt to end up in prison to begin with. UUHHH NO!These guys are in the living in the country, but where do they go for church, to buy a DR.Pepper, or to get BBQ. They will be coming to our towns where opportunity is sitting pretty on every corner. We have to quit preaching an start DOING. Oh and Terri, Manson was once a carefree child laughing in the rain...(couldn't resist)
  • by Terri Location: Sherman on Jan 2, 2008 at 06:13 PM
    A Man Not a Number Pardon me, Mister, but that man that you disdain, Was once a carefree child laughing in the rain. He's not just a number, a faceless man in white, Somewhere someone prays for him long into the night, He's a man with a name and was his father's pride and joy, His Grandpa taught him how to fish when he was a little boy. Holding a letter reading, "Daddy, I sure miss you." His eyes fill with tears as he whispers, " I love you too." His mother touches his picture and plans another visit, A long drive for a short talk, but she would never miss it. Don't turn away from me, Mister, listen to what I say, But for the grace of God, it could be you in his place today. None of us are guiltless, we all walk a road of sin, Some of us get broken til God brings us home to mend. Yes, I'm crying Mister, because that man that you disdain, Holds my heart forever, through sunshine and through rain. Love, Mom
  • by Rick Mathes on Dec 20, 2007 at 05:08 PM
    Thank you for your fair and balanced reporting of this para-church activity we have named "Fort Good Shepherd Ranch."
  • by Anonymous is RIGHT Location: Purgatory on Dec 19, 2007 at 09:00 AM
    I agree with anonymous. Let them go back to their old haunts and live there. OR, if they have changed, why wouldn't their family take them back?? If I got in trouble, I know mine would.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 19, 2007 at 07:52 AM
    Heres a thought. Let them go back to the same community they got in trouble in. Let them show their own community how they have changed and doing the Lord's work. They could be working for the same people they had ripped off before they found the Lord.
  • by J.D. Location: Sherman on Dec 18, 2007 at 11:29 PM
    Divide & conquer. Straight out of the playbook of the "fallen one"
  • by B.L. Location: Sherman on Dec 18, 2007 at 07:49 PM
    Tommy I agree with Bob, when these people from this house do something wrong and they drop them off in Denison, please don't call the police because you said they were good people and they don't do wrong when they come and steal something from you again don't call the police
  • by Monty Location: Tom Bean on Dec 18, 2007 at 01:54 PM
    Tommy in Denison: you must be talking about the goats and derelict cars in your backyard. You certainly are not talking about Harrell Road.
  • by TX Location: Texoma on Dec 18, 2007 at 01:20 PM
    Move it to Sherwood Shores..nobody will notice.
  • by TX Location: Texoma on Dec 18, 2007 at 01:16 PM
    Thanks for the church invite..but indoor God makes me nervous.
Sherman 4201 Texoma Pkwy (903) 892 -8123 Ardmore 2624 S. Commerce (580) 223-0946
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