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Resident Fears Manna Clientele Will Endanger Neighborhood

Sharon Dean, of Highland Avenue, is worried about "the type of people" that Manna on Main Street could attract when it moves near her neighborhood with the Lansdale Collaborative Project. She brought her concerns to Lansdale's public safety committee

Highland Avenue resident Sharon Dean has no problem with the proposed future location of as part of the , proposed on the former site of Lans-Bowl on East Main Street.

What she does have a problem with, she said, is the type of people that will be in and out of her neighborhood.

Dean, , brought her concerns to the Lansdale Public Safety Committee last Wednesday. In the end, Lansdale Police Chief Robert McDyre told her that the borough cannot prevent a landowner from building what it wants within code and ordinance, but it can be proactive in making sure problems don't happen in the neighborhood.

There is also a plan in the works for those involved in the collaborative project to sit down with area residents to iron out issues.

According to the building plans of , Manna on Main Street is to be housed at the rear of the large complex that will also be home to the new and expanded , The PEAK Center and .

Dean began by telling the committee that she was told that Manna would use its portion of the site for a homeless shelter, but found that wasn't the case.

"I don’t have the problem with the facility, but I do have a problem with the type of people we’re going to have in and out of our neighborhoods," Dean said.

She added that her children go to the YMCA for fitness and to attend other programs. 

There's also a lot of programs dealing with children in and around YMCA, and the type of people we are going to attract are the people who have a mental illness," she said.

Dean works at Northwestern Human Services, located on Chestnut Street in Lansdale near East Main Street. She said the borough is aware of "problems we have in that area alone" all the way to the border with Hatfield Township.

She said Manna's move to the collaborative project will "impact our community severely."

"I'd like to know what the police are going to do about it to ensure our safety, whether it be panhandling, whether it becomes a hangout area of some sort," she said. "It's really going to bring our property value down tremendously."

McDyre told Dean that residents need to discuss concerns with the parties involved in the project: North Penn YMCA, Manna on Main Street, The PEAK Center and Advanced Living Communities.

"We can address public safety concerns. I can't tell Manna they can't go there, nor can I pick and choose what clients they have."

Furthermore, McDyre said the police department has a relationship with Northwestern Human Services and meet with them regularly. He said the police are aware of NHS clientele and "do everything" they can to handle issues. The same goes for Manna, he said, and the police will meet with Manna when the project comes together.

"It's not about saying, 'No, you can't have it here.' But I do have some concern because I don't think the police department has a real upper hand on anything that goes on entirely with the type of people that we have on Chestnut Street."

Dean said she was not trying to put down the police department in a real negative way.

Then, Dean got into a debate with councilman Mike Sobel, who chairs the public safety committee.

"Where are you talking about on Chestnut Street?" asked Sobel.

"We have Northwestern Human Services there that has a day program where people are consistently loitering up and down the area. I work there," Dean said. 

"I live two blocks from there, and that's not an issue," Sobel. 

"Really?" said Dean. "Maybe you don't have an issue, but have you spoken to your neighbors in that area?"

"I don't see it's an issue where there's people wandering around all over the place. I live right there," Sobel said.

"Well then, you know what you do? Why don't you go down there after a program and observe?" said Dean. "Instead of going into your house when you go home."

Dean said the issue has been "going on for years" at Northwestern, which is in an area where Dean does not reside.

"What I'm saying is, now you're going to put it up in my area, and I would like to know what the police department is going to do to keep my children, my family safe," Dean said. "I don’t want to run in my house when I get out of my car."

McDyre said the police would "absolutely" patrol the area.

"If it becomes a problem, definitely, we will put resources there," he said. "Just as you said there's speeding in the area, you're going to see more patrolmen there when it's reported. Make us aware, we'll be there."

Councilwoman Mary Fuller extended an invitation to anybody who would like her to organize a meeting with the collaborative and the principals involved in it.

"We can discuss concerns, generally speaking, that are related to the realm of the new project outside of the borough," Fuller said. 

Dean reiterated that the police deal with issues at Northwestern on a regular basis "because I've been around it when police are called many times."

"Now I am forced to deal with it closer to my home, and I'm sure anybody else who lives in their homes feels the same way, like this man said," Dean said, referring to Sobel again.

"I don't know what you're accusing me of there?" Sobel said.

"I was repeating what you said: You have no problem," Dean said.

"Right," Sobel said. "Again, I just don't run into my house. I don't see an issue. I've lived there since 1972. I don't have neighbors knocking on my door telling me they have an issue with it either. They full well know I'm a borough councilman." 

"OK," said Dean, "but some people get to the point where they just go into the house, shut their door and mind their own business."

Dean said her neighborhood - which comprises Highland Avenue, Forest Avenue and Wissahickon Avenue - doesn't do those things and won't start.

"We are a neighborhood that's not going to shut our door, lock our door and mind our business. We are a close-knit neighborhood where we speak to each other in the eye. We talk about issues. We're not a neighborhood that goes, 'Hey, how you doing, John?' down the street," Dean said.

Sobel said the committee listened to Dean's issues and said the police department is not going to "let maniacs run around in a neighborhood."

"This will be monitored. They will be watching. They will patrol as they need to and donate resources to it," Sobel said. "We do take this really, really seriously."

That prompted Dean to "force her hand" and tell the committee that a Lansdale Police officer - who she did not name - told her to be aware of the clientele.

"He said, 'You guys are talking about traffic lights, this and that, stop sign, I hope you are bringing that part up of the type of people that you're going to have in your area.' That's from one of the officers, clearly," Dean said.

Fuller said the important thing is that residents like Dean bring concerns to the committee in their forum.

"Help us help you," Fuller said. "Help your police help you. You can be the eyes and ears in the neighborhood."

Fuller said when she had a problem as a public citizen, prior to becoming a councilwoman, she called the police and they were on her street within minutes. 

"They cant be everywhere all the time, unless they are made aware," she said. "You are doing the proper thing by bringing your concern forward."

Fuller hoped borough police will be proactive before a step-up in patrol is needed when the project, if approved, develops in 2017.

"We are meeting with Manna to be proactive about it before. It's five years before the project happens," she said.

McDyre agreed that the police's stance is to stop any issues before they become problems.

"We realize it’s a switch from a commercial to semi-residential and we realize it will be an impact," McDyre said. "The YMCA owns that property. The borough cannot stop them. The borough can only guide them to make sure they follow the codes and ordinances and it's built safely."

Dean said all she wants is a community that is safe for the families and children around the project.

"Knowing the history some areas have to go through, I just don’t want it," she said. "I'm sorry. I work with them, but I don’t want to have it in my area. If I'm going to, I'm making sure my police department, that my taxes pay for, makes sure it's going to be a safe neighborhood."

Resident Ray Liberto asked if there were many issues with Manna now or when it was next to St. John's United Church of Christ. McDyre said police would get the occasional call, but it wasn't greater than anywhere else.

Dean said, on the contrary, that there was a history with Manna. Dean related issues with Manna with issues at Northwestern Human Services.

"The loitering, that could be the problem because what comes with it is panhandling, using your backyard for a bathroom, digging for trash, looking for cigarettes on the ground. When I say it is directed at Manna, it's not what goes on inside. We've had loitering from the outside, all up and down Chestnut Street," Dean said.

"At times," she said, "we have had to pick people up from in front of Manna. The problem is the outside that leads from Manna to people coming from everywhere."

Manna's Reaction

Manna on Main Street was asked to comment and react to the statements made at the public safety committee meeting.

Kristyn DiDominick, development associate at Manna, said Manna had no comment for the moment.

She said Manna directors are scheduling an open house for residential and commercial neighbors of the collaborative project. A date and time is to be determined.

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Drew Stockmal August 06, 2012 at 12:17 PM
I love these people who equate poverty with crime. I wish this woman would spend a few nights a week volunteering or just observing at Manna on Main and I doubt she would make the same comments. These are our neighbors who are in need of a little extra help. To say that they loiter, panhandle, and urinate publicly all based on her prejudice is self-revealing. I would like this woman to bring forth any real statistics that equate poverty with child endangerment, especially in the case of Manna's clientele. If anything we have learned that children need to be more mindful of those those that we normally put our trust in: teachers, priests, coaches, uncles, etc., that more often endanger our children--not the guy walking to a place that will provide him a bowl of soup because he is hungry. Disgusting.
Dawn August 06, 2012 at 12:18 PM
How dare you, who do you think you are?!?!?!?!? These days alot of the people going to Manna are your neighbors. So many people need a little extra help these days!!! Don't be so selfish and ignotant saying "those people". Have you ever taken even 1 donation to Manna, probally not, god forbid you might encounter one of "those people"!!!!!! Have a heart, cause one day you might be the one needing help and how would you feel? The people going there, I am sure are not happy about having to do that and probally feel bad enough. They don't need people like you making them feel worse. These people are making sure their family is having food on the table, should the kids just go hungry so you feel safe? If you and your neighbors are so tight and close then keep an eye out for each other, quit being a donkey butt!!!!!
Suzanne Gerard August 06, 2012 at 12:57 PM
I would LOVE to see that witch Dean fired from her job now! How dare she pay her mortgage & utilities with the money she earns working for "those people"!! If it's such an ordeal as she proclaims, where are all the other residents from her neighborhood? How about we start cleaning Lansdale up by first getting rid of the insensitive!! I hope someday this Dean person gets her just desert!
Suzanne Gerard August 06, 2012 at 01:08 PM
*dessert
Cherie Baird August 06, 2012 at 01:32 PM
I really hope Dean's employer reads this article and helps her get the help she needs for the sake of her clients. Hopefully her work role does not involve direct client contact as I can't see her leaving a positive impression. Needing assistance doesn't equate mental illness which doesn't equate her concerns of pan handling etc. Everyone has a story. Yes, there will be issues, it's the process to deal with them that should be addressed, I believe that is Dean's concern it's just her words that are unfortunate..
John August 06, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Are you kidding me? "These kind of people"? Sharon Dean, I will tell you I have not only donated food to Manna but also my time. How dare you say such a thing. Each and every time I was at Manna, their clients were overwhelmingly thankful. I remember one woman who was almost brought to tears because she was able to have some extra produce. I have never seen any kind of panhandling, loitering or urinating from any of those going to or from Manna. I really hope these children have a better view on life and those less fortunate than this woman does. It's people who make comments and arguments like this that is making Lansdale a bad place. Though I know everyone is entitled to their opinion, this just totally infuriates me. UGH!
Russ August 06, 2012 at 02:38 PM
I can't even describe how disgusted I am by her prejudiced comments about how she views the people using the services at Manna. To come out in public and make statements like these based solely on her opinion and nothing else is ridiculous. I really hope there is never a time in her life when she is in need of the services of Manna. What a horrible way to view your neighbors and the people in your community. Instead of sounding, quite frankly, like an idiot in front of town council why don't you go and see the people who go to Mannna and tell me how many of them are "digging for trash" or urinating in peoples yards. Sad.
robin dennis August 06, 2012 at 02:40 PM
I have a Hair Salon that is located less than 1 block from the old Manna location. Over the past 15 years we have NEVER had any issues and have always worked hard to donate food, coats etc. to help out. People gather at meal times but no one really "hangs out" there. I would bet that more than 50% of the people that are using Manna are "regular" people that have come on tough times... Most people are a few paychecks away from the struggle of feeding their famlies, providing electric and heat.... Take a look around and see how many of your friends are out of work and struggling. Not everyone has family to help them.
robin dennis August 06, 2012 at 02:44 PM
To clarify my "regular" people statement.. I was referring to your average person like you or I that needs a little help.... :)
Russ August 06, 2012 at 04:06 PM
I couldn't agree with you more. Most people are only a couple paychecks away from needing a place like Manna to help them out. These are regular people from your neighborhood who are out of work or having a tough time and I am sure they are not thrilled about having to go to Manna in the first place. To have someone suggest that they are urinating in yards and digging through trash like a bunch of animals is degrading and offensive.
Jethro August 06, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Dean Stated: "Knowing the history some areas have to go through, I just don’t want it," she said. "I'm sorry. I work with them, but I don’t want to have it in my area. I'll give her credit she is honest! Maybe she forgets all of the fights and drunks coming from the bar at the bowling alley?
Michele August 06, 2012 at 05:25 PM
I can not believe this woman works with the less fortunate, and she speaks of them so cold heartedly. This women should lose her job immediately. There are plenty of people more qualified to handle her job. And when she is jobless and in need of food, like so many other decent people in this economy, we will tell HER she is not welcome in the vicinity of our neighborhoods. How dare she!!!
Julianne Wylie August 06, 2012 at 06:46 PM
For some reason my post did not go through, It's when I read articles like this by our community members that I begin to wonder what ever happened to the love thy neighbor as thyself. Just because a good portion of NWHS is mentally ill, doesn't mean that they are bad people. Nor does it mean that the people coming to Manna are mentally ill, we all fall upon hard times and need help. Being that the origin of the YMCA and basis of the YMCA is christian based and Manna is a very christian oriented center, I think their final destination of serving the community behind the YMCA is an ideal location for Manna. In addition, I know several people that live in her area that our happy to see their community stepping up to the plate by helping those LESS FORTUNATE than themselves.
Carol Levy August 06, 2012 at 10:28 PM
She works with human services? One can only hope it is in a secretarial or similar position that puts her in no contact with the 'clientele". I am a member of St. John's. When I see Manna I do not see loitering, messes left, etc. We had a food pantry a number of years ago at St Lke's in North Wales. Everyone was well mannered and as pointed out in the other letters, very appreciative and thankful for the help. This is a perfect example of NIMBY. Well, Ms. Dean, it will be in someone's backyard. Take away places like Manna and people will have no choice but to loiter and possibly steal to get the kind of help Manna provides. Ms. Dean started out with a 'well I heard that it was going to be a homeless shelter." which she found out was wrong. Her prejudice and fear, which I hope she is not passing on to her children, is evident in every word she is quoted here as saying. She has a right to speak and to her bigotry, and as to the latter - shame on her.
L. Q. Public August 06, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Normally, I avoid posting on the comment sections of these kinds of articles, because it is so easy to talk from behind a computer about these things, but this time it has made me very upset all day. All I want to say is that I support Manna anywhere in our town. I trust that the transition from one location to the other will be fine. I think Manna and the YMCA are both wonderful resources to the community, and I'm happy to have them in easy, accessible locales. And if you ever wondered about "those people"... http://www.amazon.com/Those-People-Outsiders-Welcomed-Street/dp/0741453754/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1344276534&sr=8-1&keywords=those+people+victoria+solomon I know someone who wrote the book on it... Let's support helping our own community in a positive way!
Lansdale IS Great! August 06, 2012 at 11:56 PM
I ashamed to say I live in the same town as Sharon Dean. Not knowing her, I do have to wonder of she thinks she's a good Christian. Love thy Neighbot? Not if Sharone doens't approve of them first!
patchifier August 07, 2012 at 12:22 AM
The one silver lining to the hatred that keeps pouring out of that neighborhood is the rebuttal that comes from the rest of the community. Also, if you're so worried, teach your kids some basic street smarts. It'll do them far more good than causing all this ruckus ever will.
Mirra August 07, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Someone should contact Northwestern Human Services Executive Director of Lansdale and the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Northwestern Human Services of Montgomery County. I am sure “these people, “ will be very interested in what Ms. Sharon Dean has to say.
Kathleen Hoynes August 07, 2012 at 12:22 PM
In this world, there are many kinds of people, and even good people can do bad things. Patchifier is right on. Teach children the art of living in a community full of different kinds of people, and also teach them to be kind.
Robert Willi August 07, 2012 at 06:55 PM
I live near Manna where it is currently located and I have yet to see the things that Ms. Dean brought before the P.S.C. She mentioned about her children's safety. I really doubt it is that. I think it has to do more with her other statement about her property value.
Gaia Greene August 07, 2012 at 07:47 PM
I've never seen anything that Dean worries about around Manna. Honestly, I wouldn't worry so much about having Manna in a neighborhood with my children as much as I would worry about my children being exposed to people like Sharon Dean. What a vile woman.
bigdog63 August 09, 2012 at 10:48 PM
I agree 100% if anyone would like to contact Northwestern Human Services the phone number is 215-368-2022
bigdog63 August 09, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Sharon, are you still Vice President of NHS's union? I worked with you. You talked down to the consumers. I STILL work for NHS. I am going to be a volunteer at Manna as planned a few weeks ago. How dare you say derogatory comments LIKE THAT!! YOU TRULY SHOULD NOT BE IN HUMAN SERVICES AT ALL!! SHAME SHAME SHAME ON YOU!! YOU PUT NHS IN A NEGATIVE LIGHT !! YOU SHOULD BE FIRED!! NHS PLS FIRE HER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YES I AM YELLING JUST LIKE YOU!! AS YOU SAY.....WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND!! ARE U A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST? WOULD HE SAY AND DO THINGS LIKE YOU DO!! I WILL PRAY FOR YOU THAT U CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE ABOUT OUR PEOPLE AND I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE!! I'M TRULY OFFENDED AND SO ARE MY FRIENDS!!
M Lansdale August 10, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Reading this article makes me so angry and sad at the same time. My mother goes to NHS and I am horrified that this women works there. To know that my mother may have to come in contact with someone with these prejudices when going to the very place that is supposed to help her makes me want to cry. People are born with mental illnesses and Dean's derogatory statements are the reason a lot of people don't get help. I live down the street from the former Manna location and know people who have had times in their lives when they have had to depend on the help of Manna. I am thankful they are in our community.

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