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Homeless facility faces uphill battle in Burlington County

3/17/2014 | Real Estate Blog

It looks as if Lumberton Township in Burlington County — across the river from Philadelphia — has a “not in my back yard” issue to sort out over the next few months. A faith-based nonprofit group, Citizens Serving the Homeless Inc., recently announced its intention to open a 300-bed facility for the homeless on a site that was most recently home to a private school.

The facility would be modeled after others in the U.S. as a “multi-role facility.” In addition to providing clients with housing for up to two years, it will provide occupational training, employment assistance and, in order to address some of the root causes of homelessness, drug abuse and mental illness counseling. The state’s “point in time” survey reported 671 homeless people in Burlington County last year; there is clearly a need, according to one advocate, for the additional beds.

Citizens has only signed a purchase agreement for the five-acre site, and the organization has yet to present a plan to the Township Committee. Still, opposition is mounting in the community — so much so that residents appeared at a Committee meeting earlier this month, before Citizens even raised the money to buy and to rehabilitate the property. The organization may still be looking for funding.

Residents voiced concerns about the toll the facility could take on area schools and public services, including fire and police. One opponent was concerned that the facility would bring people with mental illness, substance-abuse problems and criminal tendencies into the community. The facility and its clientele would lower property values in the neighborhood, she said. Before the meeting, another neighbor had told a reporter that she would certainly listen to what Citizens had to say but expressed some reluctance to have the facility next door. 

Without a formal proposal, there is no way for township leaders to know if Citizens will ask for a zoning variance. (The site is zoned for residential and agricultural uses.) Residents will not, however, wake up one morning to find the facility approved and under construction; everyone who owns property within 200 feet of the site will be notified of a request for a variance.

Citizens needs $500,000 to move forward with the project. According to its website, the organization has hosted an informational breakfast forum for local religious leaders in order to build support for the project.

The website also says that the facility will be opening sometime later this year. It will be called Community of Hope.


The Inquirer, “Lumberton residents seek information on possible homeless facility,” David O’Reilly, March 6, 2014

The Inquirer, “300-bed homeless facility proposed for Lumberton,” David O’Reilly, March 5, 2014