A Holland woman hoping to open up a boys home is asking the community to keep an open mind.
Susan Gray is attempting to add a boys home to the former Imagine Fellowship Church on West 20th Street. Gray bought the church about a year ago to revitalize it, but once she found out about the roughly 200 students dealing with homelessness in the Holland area, she envisioned adding a shelter for homeless boys. Gray is expected to partner with Bethany Christian Services.
But the concept is facing a few challenges. Gray needs to get a zoning ordinance changed by the Planning Commission in order to potentially open the home. The Holland native is also hearing concerns from the neighbors.
"I think there's a concern that we're going to have wayward children, or people who are in trouble with the law, or sexual offenders," Gray said. "First of all sexual offenders can't live anywhere near a church and this is a church so that dispels that. Secondly, remember that we have to have children who can socialize in a group at all times here. So if that child is OK with socializing with a group of 12, 20 or 30 certainly they can socialize in a neighborhood as well."
On Thursday night Gray held a public meeting to address any concerns that keep her dream from becoming a reality.
"I’m a mother. I understand the value of their children and to protect that Is very understandable," she said. " I'm a realtor and protecting property values is a goal of ours in the community and I’m a pastor and saying no to children is not acceptable, it’s a bankrupted spiritual capacity that we cannot take on."
The Planning Commission plans to talk about the zoning issue at their next meeting. We did reach out to a number of neighbors who say they have concerns but they didn't want to talk on camera until they got the facts from Thursday's meeting.
The church, House of The Lord's Grace, will begin services the first week of November.