I see the Democrat-Gazette weighed in today at last on an issue long simmering here — the city of Little Rock's decision to funnel additional money to the Union Rescue Mission to operate the six-years-in-the-making homeless center on Confederate Boulevard.
Union Rescue has already gotten the considerable favor of city purchase of their decrepit, worn-out shelter. Now the city proposes a $300,000 contract for Union Rescue to run the taxpayer-financed shelter. And Union Rescue proposes to hire only evangelical Christians for the city-funded staff jobs, from social workers to janitors.
The city thinks this is legal. The ACLU has told me it's looking into it. Legal or not, it's wrong. Union Rescue is no more than a pass-through for city money to hire workers for the city center. Without the city building and city contract, Union Rescue has no jobs to fill. It is just wrong for the city to create a $300,000 employment pool for which only a certain flavor of Christian, not even all Christians, can apply.
Mayor Mark Stodola whines that Union Rescue's second thoughts on the contract in light of objections could cause delays. What a joke. This project has limped along at a glacial pace for better than a half decade. NOW he's worried about another month?
Also: Union Rescue Mission has snippily notified the Arkansas Homeless Coalition that it, and all affiliates, want to be removed from the Arkansas Homeless Coalition mailing list. The coalition, in the person of homeless advocate Robert Johnston, the former legislator, has been the source of complaints about an exclusionary hiring policy at the homeless center. This is another reason for the city to reconsider a link with Union Rescue Mission. How comprehensive can its operation of a homeless center be if it refuses to cooperate with a broad homeless coalition in the city?
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