ST. CLOUD -- An overnight homeless shelter in southeast St. Cloud has been granted the ability to increase its number of temporary residents, but it must also drastically increase the number of staff on site.

The St. Cloud Area Zoning Board Tuesday night approved an amendment to the Conditional Use Permit for the Lincoln Center being operated by Homeless Helping Homeless at 630 Lincoln Avenue Southeast.

They will be allowed to increase residents to 25 up from the current 19 maximum, but staffing levels also have to increase from the current minimum of one up to a two to one ratio, so 13 staff members when all beds are filled.

The facility must have a designated program manager and a trained social work professional on-staff that are on-site daily.

The board also discussed at length their frustration that the issue of homelessness in the city is continually having to be addressed by their board which deals with zoning issues.

In my mind, this is not really a land-use issue about a particular parcel.  This is a public policy issue, and it is astounding to me that it has been in front of our board for a year and I have yet to see our mayor or our city council do anything about it.  I am very upset about that.

Board member John Mathews says the new occupancy levels cannot begin until the Lincoln Center completes construction of its own plans to improve the sleeping areas. If they are not able to make the improvements they would revert back to the original CUP of 19 guests to one staff member. The board didn't like the idea of it going back to the original guest-to-staff ratio but was not able to change the original agreement.

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Board Chair Susanne Barkalow expressed concern that any new conditions will be met since the facility is still not in compliance with three of the original 13 conditions. She says the city has failed to do its job.

What we are dealing with today in terms of all these physical items I'm sure many of them have existed for the best part of a year.  My concern is moving forward we shouldn't have items that take a year to address.

If the Lincoln Center does have to revert back to its original CUP and it does not become compliant with all of its conditions then the city can revoke it. However, the facility then would still be allowed to operate as a day center.

Tuesday night's action was the continuation of a discussion that started with a public hearing at the board's April meeting.  At that meeting, a number of residents spoke out about how the Lincoln Center has impacted them since it opened 15 months ago.

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