Group seeks to open homeless center on Watertown’s North Pleasant Street

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WATERTOWN — A group of local activists is looking at purchasing a house from the city to open a homeless center on North Pleasant Street.

The group, calling themselves “Watertown Area Rescue Mission,” or WARM, has been working for several months on plans to open a homeless center.

Organizers have approached the city about buying a vacant single-family home at 256 N. Pleasant St. for the facility.

“We’re having some conversations with the city about our proposal about the city’s zoning laws,” said co-director Ruth Lago.

The city took over the vacant, three-bedroom house through back taxes.

WARM is interested in that particular property for a number of reasons, including “financial” in regards to the price of acquiring it from the city, Ms. Lago said.

It’s also close to the Huntington and Factory streets area, where homeless people congregate along the Black River.

“Ideally, it would take care of the vagrancy issues,” she said.

The group also doesn’t want the center to be in a commercial area.

The house is one of four buildings that the city acquired after they went through a two-year redemption period for back taxes.

The house will be sold through a request for proposal process, rather than auctioning it off. That RFP process is still in the works. The City Council would have approve its sale.

They’re talking with the city’s planning department about zoning issues in regards to homeless facilities.

The city is in the process of making major changes to its zoning laws. As part of the rezoning rewrite, Ms. Lago has suggested to add some wording to the new zoning document that would allow for a homeless respite or for a homeless warming and cooling center.

Senior City Planner Jennifer Voss said Wednesday that the city is conducting research about whether that can be done.

Organizers say they need an investment of about $750,000 to get the center started.

They’re seeking funding from United Way of Northern New York, the Northern New York Community Foundation and other private organizations.

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