On Tuesday night, the McKinney City Council approved rezoning of 15.5 acres to expand The Samaritan Inn, allowing the charitable organization to expand to meet the needs of the growing homeless population.
“We’re so thrilled. We’ve needed to expand for several years,” said executive director Lynne Sipiora. “In 2012, we had to turn away 3,754 qualified families because we didn’t have anywhere for them to stay.
“This will give us the opportunity to build a family building to accommodate so many more people.”
Samaritan Inn President Rick Wells praised the positive outcome.
"It was really cool to have that many people to come out in support of The Samaritan Inn," he said. "It was a complete-packed house, standing room only and people lined outside the hall. 42 people got up and spoke about the Inn. It was tremendous support. It was a magical evening."
The Samaritan Inn was established in 1984 after community leaders joined together to address the issue of homelessness in Collin County. Their mission statement reads: We are a comprehensive homeless program that helps willing people regain their dignity and independence.
Prior to Tuesday’s Council meeting, The Samaritan Inn’s leadership team was concerned.
“We were concerned for sure. There is an industrial park near the location and they filed in opposition because they feared it might cause land devaluation, especially if we didn’t do anything,” Sipiora said. “We explained to them the kind of shelter we wanted to build. So in the end, they gave us their support. It was a great night.”
Part of the concern was the opposition of the ordinance.
"There was a movement to make sure the ordinance read correctly so that the Inn did not purchase property with another use in mind," Wells said. "Their biggest concern was they didn't want it to end up being a shelter for the chronic homeless. Those who are looking for a hot meal and a place to stay, then they leave.
"But they [opponents] were very gracious in the ordeal. They raised their hands and asked valid questions."
The Samaritan Inn provides, at no cost, a secure and clean place to live. Their building has separate living areas for men, women and families. They also have a playroom and a fully equipped playground.
They serve three well-balanced meals daily and provide personal hygiene products. If necessary, clothing, coats and shoes are also available. Experienced caseworkers assess the needs of each resident and develop an individual program geared toward independence.
The number of those in need of the services at The Samaritan Inn has grown, especially in recent years.
“I’ve been here seven years, and from the moment I came here it was apparent we needed more beds and more rooms,” Sipiora said. “We’ve had a couple of smaller expansions, but this one will be large.”
So what are the goals and plans moving forward?
“Well first we’ve got to close on the property and take care of the issues involving that process, and we should close in early April,” Sipiora said. “We’ll kick off a capital campaign in May. At The Samaritan Inn, we are never in debt, so we have to have the money first, and we hope for private donations to gives us the millions of dollars needed to build. We have plans for a 60-unit, multi-story family shelter to house 60 families.”
Sipiora also wanted to address those who helped with making the rezoning effort a success.
“I wanted to say how proud I am to be a part of this town,” she said. “McKinney is the only city in the county to provide a homeless shelter continuous for the past 30 years.
“The unanimous vote by the City Council shows their support. The City and its residents care for everyone, not just the businesses and growth but also those in need.”
Wells was also gracious to the City.
"The City and its employees worked with us to make sure that the ordinance and its language was written for approved for all parties," he said. "Not a lot of cities would do that."
You can read more about The Samaritan Inn and keep up with the progress of their new structure on their website at thesamaritaninn.org.
And don't forget about The Samaritan Inn Gala on Saturday, Feb. 23. Click here for more information.