Don West has lived on Crosby Drive in Del City for most of his 56 years, just down the street from his 90-year-old mother, Ruby West.
Now, mother and son are fearful about what will happen one street over if plans go forward to turn Howard Memorial Baptist Church into a halfway house for nearly 200 convicts preparing to re-enter society.
The Del City Planning Commission will consider a zone change Thursday to allow the project to go forward.
“I thought I would live and die here,” West said. “I don't want to leave, but I might have to.
“These people have been in prison. We don't want prison sitting in our backyards.”
The halfway house would be run by Center Point Inc., which is trying to replace its current halfway house at SE 51 and Interstate 35. Its lease there ends Oct. 1. Representatives of Center Point Inc. did not return repeated calls for comment.
Tom Leatherbee, director of Del City Community Services, said the office has never had a planning case with so much controversy. He said the city has received phone calls, letters and even Facebook posts opposing Center Point's relocation plans.
Vicki Urist, a Del City resident, said in a letter to the planning commission that Center Point's facility “would be an out-of-character, unwelcome, and inappropriate change to our neighborhood and community.”
She said she wouldn't feel safe in her own home.
Plans call for the halfway house to occupy Howard Memorial Baptist Church and a new church would be built nearby.
Andrew Mericle, the church's pastor, said the halfway house would have round-the-clock security.
“We live right in this neighborhood as well,” Mericle said. “We will still have a church here. We would never enter into some sort of relationship that would be detrimental to the community.”
He would serve as chaplain to the halfway house.
Olga Pruett, a member of the church for more than 34 years, said she understands safety concerns, but that Center Point's residents need to know that God and others love them.
Mericle said the partnership is the best option for the church.
“Our reason for existence is to minister the presence of God to the community and to the people that need spiritual help,” Mericle said. “If we can help Center Point and that endeavor, the church is serving its mission. We are improving the community that we live in.”
The Del City Planning Commission will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at Del City City Hall. If the commission approves the request, the proposal will be considered by the city council on July 16.