The plot of land next to the church was purchased by Boley for use as the site of a housing development for those who are vulnerable and in need of shelter. There will be 20 units in the community. In light of delays related to covid and increased costs, Boley approached the City Council asking for an additional $760,000 to fully fund the project. Rev. Wells was asked by Boley to speak to the City Council at their meeting on Thursday Feb. 17 in favor of the funding. This is what she said:
Good afternoon. I am Rev. Kim Wells, pastor of Lakewood United Church of Christ which is next door to the property acquired by Boley for Whispering Pines.
We are a Christian church. A consistent message in our faith tradition is the dictate to work to eliminate poverty, need, and want in society. We are committed to ministering to ‘the least of these.’
Our church has responded to this call in various ways. We support Operation Attack providing assistance to families in need. We have been involved in Family Promise helping families secure housing. We had about 30 houseless people stay at our church for a month several years ago. We have a partnership with Maximo Elementary School to assist their unhoused students. And we routinely have people in need come to the church for help and we provide assistance as we are able.
So, when we heard about the Boley initiative, we were thrilled.
But we don’t expect the City Council of St. Petersburg to follow the teachings of our faith tradition. You are the government not a faith-based organization.
So, having personally worked with people without housing, here’s what I feel you need to consider.
The struggles associated with home insecurity divert and distract people from being constructively involved in the community. Housing issues impact the capacity to work in a reliable and consistent manner. Housing instability impacts children getting to school and succeeding academically. Housing insecurity contributes to health problems that stress the healthcare system. There are many negative consequences to the community when people don’t have stable, secure housing. A person with a safe place to live then has the capacity to be a responsible, constructive, contributing member of the community.
The Whispering Pines community will have a significant positive impact not only on the new residents but it will have an important positive impact on the community as a whole and it will benefit us all.
When Boley leaders met with our church to introduce the Whispering Pines development, we were told that there would be a substantial fence erected on the property line between the church and the housing development. We made one request: Please put a big gate in that fence.
We implore you, the City Council, to vote to fully fund the Whispering Pines community. It is a much needed improvement not only for those who will reside there but for the community and the city as a whole. Thank you!
The City Council voted unanimously to fully fund Whispering Pines.