POSTED: Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 7:53pm
UPDATED: Friday, February 21, 2014 - 11:25am
Employees say it could be a good thing
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — Editor's Note: After this story aired, a representative from TXDot advised us that TXDot will not be using eminent domain for the Resue Mission relocation. Rather, they say, the Rescue Mission is willing to sell and relocate.
Literature NewsChannel 9 obtained from the Rescue Mission states that TxDot notified them on January 13 that "they were taking all of the Mission's property through eminent domain."
We will continue to follow the story as it develops.
After nearly 30 years at the same location, and $2.6 million in renovations, the Rescue Mission of El Paso is being forced to move out because of the Loop 375 project along Paisano.
The Texas Department of Transportation originally told the Rescue Mission it would only take over some of the shelter's property, but in January TXDoT engineers decided that the new roadways would be too close to the Rescue Mission, and leaving the shelter at that location would be unsafe.
"They notified us January 13 that they were going to buy out all of the Rescue Mission's property and we have 18 months to find a new place," said Rescue Mission CEO Blake Barrow.
TXDoT is utilizing eminent domain to take ownership of the 7.2 acre property. Barrow said TXDoT has hired appraisers to calculate the property. The appraisal should be complete by the end of March.
While moving the shelter will be no easy task, there are some advantages to finding a new location.
TXDoT projects along Paisano have created a traffic nightmare, but it's not only a problem for drivers. TXDoT crews wiped out a sidewalk that lead from the Rescue Mission to Downtown El Paso, and now people are forced to walk across railroad tracks to get to and from the shelter.
"We will no longer be between railroad tracks, and as far as all the people that are living here, that has been an impediment to them getting to their jobs, getting to schools, getting to hospitals," said Barrow.
Juliana Ortega, the Assistant Director at the Rescue Mission, has worked there for 26 years. She said a new location could mean helping more people.
"Before the expansion, we used to house 120-130 people a night, but because of the expansion and the limited space that we have, our numbers have decreased," she said.
Barrow said the plan is to find a new location within the 18 months.
"We want to have a new shelter set up within the 18 months so that when this facility is torn down, we're ready to move directly to another place. If that is not accomplished, by law, TXDoT is required to provide relocation assistance for every one of the 175 people who are homeless living here," said Barrow.
Ideally, he would like the new shelter to be near Downtown El Paso because he said that in most cities, homeless people tend to gather in the downtown area.