Women’s ‘safe haven’ plans come as shock to city officials

By Alyssa Donovan

April 2, 2013 Updated Apr 2, 2013 at 9:40 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill.-- A local woman working to give women with criminal history a fresh start may have stepped into the spotlight a little too soon.

Sharon Collins of "One Body One Purpose Ministry" shared with us Sunday her plans to turn this old sorority house on Institute drive into a safe haven.

Collins intends to house 15 women with criminal or drug related backgrounds in the home.

On Sunday Collins said, "The purpose is to work with ex-felons to get them training and get them jobs and get them employable again. Our goal is that when these ladies leave here they leave employed, rooted and grounded in Christ and into their own place."

But these plans came as a bit of a shock to City officials.
2nd district Council Candidates say they had not heard about the plans.

Current Councilwoman Barbara VanAuken said, "I got text messages about it about 10 minutes after the news story aired."

VanAuken says Shannon Techie at City of Peoria Planning says the area has very restrictive zoning.

VanAuken said, "What she has to do is make an application because right now we don't know the intended use."

2nd District Council Candidate Chuck Grayeb said, “There are so many restrictions as to where something like that can go and hoops that have to be jumped through and things like traffic, whether it's consistent with the comprehensive plan for the area."

And members of the Uplands Neighborhood Association say the house has been vacant for about 11 months, partially because of the zoning.

VanAuken says those in the neighborhood just want to know what is going on, "The very first thing I say is have you talked to your neighbors."

And it seems that Collins has not really talked to anybody.

Collins has not yet purchased the house.

On Sunday she said she is depending on funds from the community and local churches to help with the purchase.

She declined to comment on Tuesday.

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