Homeless staying at tent city will be allowed to stay after a unanimous vote by the Lubbock City Council Thursday.
The council was acting on an appeal by Link Ministries, who wanted the council to overturn a decision made by the planning and zoning commission in September.
Area businesses complained to the commission about a lack of security at the property where the homeless stay, claiming an increase in break-ins.
The commission declined to zone the area for a special use shelter, leaving the appeal process in the hands of the city council.
After weeks of thought and prayer, one business owner changed his mind.
"One of my concerns was my property value originally. After doing a lot of praying and soul searching - there's things more important than my property value," said Chuck Chapman, with Chapman Electric.
Chapman says he was moved after talking with Link Ministries and hearing about their efforts to help Lubbock's homeless get back on their feet.
In Thursday's council meeting, Chapman held back tears as he quoted a bible verse:
"For I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you invited me into your home," Chapman said.
2,600 Lubbockites signed a petition to keep the homeless at the privately owned property on 13th Street and Avenue A.
A standing room only crowd turned out to hear the council's reply.
Lynn McClendon said, "I would just ask that you all not close tent city while there is a need."
McClendon served on the city appointed homelessness committee. That group recommended that the city leave the homeless solution in the hands of faith-based organizations.
"We support the re-zoning of tent city. We think it's a necessary thing," Lubbock Salvation Army Captain Mike Morton said.
The Salvation Army is one of the other shelter options for the city's homeless.
With councilman Paul Beane at a funeral, Link Ministries needed votes from all five attending council members, and the mayor.
The crowd erupted in applause after the unanimous vote.
"Justice prevails and that's what we're after," Les Burrus with Link Ministries said.
Tent city manager Cliff Van Loan says Thursday's decision was a big one.
"This is really a vote of confidence from the city," Van Loan said.
To re-affirm their commitment to the safety and security of nearby businesses, the faith-based organization must meet a few requirements.
They must build an 8-foot privacy fence within 120 days. Showers and restroom facilities will be built within six months. Link Ministries has 30 months to turn an abandoned gin on the property into a day use area.
They say they'll need support from the community and other faith-based groups.
"No city taxes are being used for this," Burrus said. "Private donations - private funding is what we're after."
It's a giant leap for Link Ministries as they hope to be a temporary place of refuge for people like Travis Barlett.
Barlett just moved from Oklahoma this month with his wife.
"I was here about two days and got a job," Barlett said.
The Barletts say they'll only have to stay through January. In the meantime, they'll save money for a place of their own.
"We heard about this place and so we came and checked it out. They let us in with warm welcome hands," Barlett said.
He says they feel comfortable knowing they won't have to move thanks to the support of the people of Lubbock.
Burrus and Link Ministries couldn't agree more.
"I thank all the churches, all the supporters, all the petition signers, because this was their battle," Burrus said.
It will be a long project for Link Ministries. Burrus says it helps to have the support of his neighbors, like Chapman.
"The bottom line is, I know nobody wants it in their backyard. But me, my partner, and my building - we are willing to have it in our backyard," Chapman said.
If you'd like to help you can mail donations to:
ATTN: Gary Light/Tent City
1117 65th Drive
Lubbock TX, 79412
Copyright 2011 KCBD NewsChannel 11