by Adam Ghassemi
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – One man is asking people to prove they care about the homeless population on his mission to open a new shelter in Montgomery County.
Clarksville residents may have seen him at major intersections around town. He said that was kind of the point. Kenny York is not homeless, but planned to live on the streets for the next two weeks to get people thinking.
"People say we support what you do. We love what you do. Well, I'm at the point of saying prove it,” he said Tuesday.
To understand why York is doing you this you have to look at the organization he founded after being homeless.
Manna Cafe works to get food from all over to people who desperately need it.
Last winter, they turned a building on Frosty Morn Drive into an emergency warming shelter. Now they want to make it permanent.
The only problem is current zoning ordinances won't allow a homeless shelter within 1,000 ft. of a residential area. York wants it changed to 500 ft.
"It won't increase it by much, but just enough there may be a chance, where it's us or someone else, have a chance of opening up another shelter and helping some of these folks,” he said.
The building is in a section of town that’s served by two other homeless charities that existed before 1,000 ft. rule. Some neighbors aren't so sure about this change.
"It was not about what they were trying to do, but actually how they were going about it,” said Donna Boisseau whose family has owned Bill's Wholesale, Inc. next door for 30 years.
Boisseau says after the warming shelters opened last winter they had problems. She likes York's mission, but worries without rules on who can come and go, it could pose a problem.
"It's not that we're not sympathetic. That's not it at all. It's just that safety is a huge issue,” she said.
Before the city council decides on zoning changes York is getting plenty of attention while he tries to collect signatures on his petition.
He hopes to get enough people to support why a new shelter here is necessary.
"Do you care? You say you do. But prove it,” he said.
York says unlike the warming shelters, which had to be opened very quickly, the permanent shelter would have rules on who could be there.
The city council is waiting on a study about the proposed ordinance change and will take it up August 7.
York says zoning is only one part of the problem. If the rules are amended they would also have to raise enough money to get the shelter open.