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Plans for new homeless shelter on Dirksen Parkway move forward

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Plans for a new homeless shelter on the east side of Springfield are moving forward.

Thursday night, local residents asked for the resolutions to be tabled for 30 days so a public hearing could be held.

The board denied that request and all four resolutions related to the shelter were passed.

Residents got their voices heard at Thursday night’s county board meeting about the homeless shelter being built on Dirksen Parkway.

"We are very concerned as a community. Very concerned and nobody can answer our questions," Becky Nevill, Springfield resident, said at the meeting.

The county board passed four resolutions. They approved the lease agreement, the contract for the sale of real estate, the agreement between the county, Helping Hands, and SMTD for transportation from the shelter, and the agreement with O’Shea Builders.

But residents who spoke at the meeting are concerned about safety. They said they felt they were being “blindsided.”

"There's an elementary school and the high school not five minutes down the other direction. That's I mean, it increases the danger for the children there but increases the danger for everyone walking in that area," Sean Collins, Springfield resident, said at the meeting.

But Board Chairman Andy Van Meter said the board has been communicating with the public on the project.

"It's hard to credit that argument where we've been talking about this publicly for eight months...We understand they have questions about the project, and they may have continued to have questions about the project and we're happy to try and answer those questions," Van Meter said.

Van Meter said this project has been in the works for over eight months. He thinks it will help homelessness in Springfield.

"This helping hands shelter for the homeless is a very important part of that process so we're very glad to get it approved this evening," Van Meter said.

Some residents said they’re concerned about an increase in substance abuse in their neighborhoods.

Officials say the next step is to get the bids back for construction.

Van Meter said he thinks that will be at the end of June.

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Officials hope to open the shelter in late November.

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