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Hearing tonight on cease and desist order issued to Dorothy Day House

There is a public hearing in Danbury Thursday night about a cease and desist order issued to the Dorothy Day Hospitality House.  The soup kitchen and emergency shelter hasn't had a permit to operate at their Spring Street facility for more than three decades.  The cease and desist order was issued by the City's Zoning Enforcement Officer at the end of February.  


Attorneys for Dorothy Day are fighting the order before the Zoning Board of Appeals Thursday night. 


The public hearing is at 7pm at Danbury City Hall.


In 1983, the Planning Commission gave Dorothy Day permission to operate for a year, and then granted a one year renewal.  They stopped updating the permit in 1985. 


After it was discovered this winter in response to neighbor complaints about quality of life issues, Dorothy Day submitted a request to the Planning Commission to renew the permit from 1984.  The Planning Commission doesn't have jurisdiction to renew the permit.  The Zoning Enforcement Officer asked the operator to submit an application to be granted a "special exception use" for the shelter in order to come into compliance with zoning regulations.  When that didn't happen, a cease and desist order was issued in an effort to bring the homeless shelter into compliance.


The CityCenter Board of Commissioners sent a letter to Danbury officials in February outlining information they received from the Police Department.  Over one year, there were 693 police visits and 145 ambulance responses to Spring Street.  Of those figures, more than 450  police responses were directly to Dorothy Day.  The calls were for altercations, fights, intoxication, prostitution, larceny, and drugs among others. 


Of the 693 police calls, 58 resulted in arrests.  CityCenter Executive Director PJ Prunty cited a state statute about abatement of a public nuisance .  It applies if there are three or more arrests per year at a specific location.  Prunty said it's staggering that 3,000 square feet can have such a drain on quality of life and on public services.


Spring Street residents are asking Danbury officials to relocate Dorothy Day to a non-residential area.  They, along with CityCenter advocates, are calling for Dorothy Day to work with the Continuum of Care and have police or private security monitor and control client behavior.  They say Dorothy Day has severely out grown the location, as well as creating an out of control situation.


In a 2014 letter, Ernesto Rodriguez wrote on behalf of the Spring Street Neighborhood Association that the "No Questions Asked" policy attracts negative elements of society to Spring Street, including drug dealers, prostitutes and people suffering from mental health and addiction problems.


In response to a presentation from the Neighborhood Association, the City Center Board of Commissioners wrote that there is a blindness cloaked in the mission of the Dorothy Day Hospitality House to shelter the poor and feed the hungry.  The Board noted that the clients actions impacts the well being of residents in the downtown area.


CityCenter officials said it is necessary to talk about the blatant drug use, alcohol abuse, prostitution, loitering, polluting and other illegal behavior coming through the doors of the Dorothy Day House.

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