Program for homeless moving forward in Ontario County

A temporary day center to help the homeless will open in Geneva as a legal team explores options for a permanent center after a Canandaigua city board ruled a church would need a special use permit to have the center in its rectory.

“We will open the day center in Geneva Sept. 20 and be there for now,” said Bill Burns, executive director of Family Promise of Ontario County. “We will keep this as a temporary day center. The temple has graciously offered to host us. It has always been part of the plan in case it didn’t work somewhere else — to continue to focus on helping those who need it in the community.”

The public is invited to the grand opening at Temple Beth-El, 755 S. Main St., Geneva, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 20.

Family Promise, a nonprofit faith-based network, is partnering with multiple congregations in the county to provide displaced families with support so they can achieve, and sustain, independence. Host congregations provide safe, overnight accommodations and home-cooked meals, while supporting congregations provide help such as day centers where families can easily access services during the day at a home base.

The Canandaigua city Zoning Board of Appeals this month rejected an appeal by St. John’s Episcopal Church over a requirement the church obtain a special use permit. St. John’s sought to open a day center in its church rectory at 183 N. Main St. Last year, the city Planning Commission denied the permit. The proposal faced opposition from the beginning from neighbors who argued the day center raised concerns over traffic, parking and safety — especially in light of existing church activity.

Zoning Officer Rick Brown, who is also city director of Development and Planning, responded Wednesday via email to questions. Brown said he was contacted Wednesday by a board member of Family Promise who said “that they were looking for another location.”

Options now for opening a day center in the city of Canandaigua include the applicant reapplying for a special use permit for the existing site — there is no required waiting period between applications — or pursuing a similar special use permit application for another site, according to Brown.

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