Joelle Gomez, CEO of the Women’s Center-YFS, said during a phone interview Thursday that the group is no longer interested in buying the home on the 400 block of East Hollywood Avenue.
“We are walking away from the house,” she said. “We certainly don’t want to get into an adversarial position with the neighbors.”
Public meeting called
A group of 47 people who live in the neighborhood met at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, in the front yard of Alice Campbell’s home on Beverly Place, directly behind the house the agency planned to buy.
“I basically organized it because everyone called and texted me saying I had the most to lose,” Campbell said.
The group invited Gomez to meet with them outside of Campbell’s house.
None of the neighbors attending the meeting, which was organized earlier in the day, spoke in support of the women’s shelter.
Rick Vital lives around the block from Hollywood Avenue in the house his parents bought in 1970. He was one of the residents worried the shelter would attract violence to the neighborhood in the form of abusive men looking for women at the house.
“It’s a nice neighborhood, but at night when the sun goes down, I start seeing unsavory people riding bicycles and snooping,” Vital said. “This day and age, you do what you can to keep the neighborhood what it is. Don’t let this kind of thing in.”
Gomez stressed to the group the agency’s history of zero attacks by abusers at their shelters.
“It’s a good question, about, Are we bringing danger into the neighborhood,” Gomez said, “I can tell that since the inception of our shelter, we’ve never had an incident where a batterer has beaten down at the shelter.”
That response didn’t convince Ricky, another neighbor, that his wife, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, and their daughter would be safe. He declined to provide his last name but said he lived down the street from the house.
“They’re saying they have no abuse rate, nothing really coming up, but we don’t know that,” Ricky said. “Don’t get me wrong, I feel sorry for the women, but I think they need a bigger place or a better place for them to get back on track.”
Throughout the meeting, many residents said they felt their neighborhood was not the right fit for a women’s shelter.
“The right location in my mind would be not low density, it would be maybe what they used to be in: medical density, apartment living,” Campbell said. “Maybe something out in the country. Great places for the kids to play.”
Quality of neighborhood in jeopardy?
Many residents shouted concerns about protecting themselves from perceived dangers a shelter could create.
“What can I do to stop this?” one self-described mother of three said.
“This is the nicest district in Tracy for years and years and years,” said another unidentified woman. “It’s almost like you’re desecrating it.”
Gomez told the group the two-bedroom home the agency was going to buy would house no more than 10 women and children at any time.
One woman from the neighborhood said she sympathized with the plight of battered women but was opposed to placing such a shelter alongside people who have owned their homes for 40 or 50 years.
“They put everything into their homes, and you’re coming in unfairly and just disturbing these neighborhoods. It’s not fair and it’s not right,” she said.
Gomez responded with a plea for the battered women who need a place to escape their abusers.
“It’s not fair and it’s not right to deprive a person who is trying to rehabilitate themselves — a victim who has nowhere else to go — to not be in a setting as beautiful as your neighborhood,” she said.
Other neighbors yelled out “downtown” or “an apartment complex” when asked where the battered women should go.
Ricky suggested that a two-bedroom home was too small for the group’s needs.
“Something bigger where they can grow out a little bit, instead of being back into a shrunken house with more people,” he said. “That would be better for them. Something with more fresh air.”
Gomez said Thursday, following the public meeting, that despite the access to parks, schools and public amenities that would be provided by a shelter on East Hollywood Avenue, the Women’s Center-Youth and Family Services was going to abandon its efforts to buy the house.
Following the meeting Wednesday, Gomez said she understood the concern expressed by the neighbors.
“It’s discouraging. It’s also understandable,” Gomez said. “You have to ask yourself, would you ever expect to live next to a battered women’s shelter. I ask myself that all the time. I would accept that.”
Gomez said the group will resume its search for a home in another part of town.
Denise Ellen Rizzo contributed to this report.
•Contact Michael Ellis Langley at 830-4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.