Homewood residents still wary of Rescue League plan



About two dozen Homewood residents met Thursday night to discuss a proposal to build an animal shelter in their neighborhood. Some of them supported it, but most raised concerns that it would destroy precious housing and bring dog dander into their yards.

The Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania, a nonprofit that takes in stray dogs, cats and other animals, plans to move its Larimer headquarters a few blocks east to the southwest corner of Homewood. It is trying to buy an entire block at the corner of Hamilton and Dallas avenues. The 4-acre block is largely vacant, with a handful of occupied homes.

Many residents at the meeting, organized by the Operation Better Block community group, were wary of development, saying that it can raise housing costs and push residents out of neighborhoods.

"If you look around you, you'll see these developers are closing in on us from every entry," Homewood resident Lucille Holliday said. "We wake up one morning and all we have is development. Where's your neighbor who lived beside you for 20 years?"

There were also concerns that the $15 million shelter wouldn't bring many economic benefits to the neighborhood.

Supporters of the plan, including city Councilman Ricky Burgess, have said it would boost the local economy, but many at the meeting wondered whether the Rescue League, which largely relies on volunteers, would bring many jobs.

Another concern was that dogs from the shelter would befoul residents' lawns. Lois McClendon, a community organizer at Operation Better Block who emceed the meeting, said Rescue League employees had assured her that dogs would stay inside the facility.

Some expressed support for the plan, saying the Rescue League could clear stray animals from the streets and break up dogfighting rings. Tabansi Obialo, a 12th Ward committeeman, challenged the view that the Rescue League was alien to the community.

"We shouldn't look at them as an outside entity," Mr. Obialo said. "They've been in the 12th Ward since 1928. They're not an outside invader."

Most of the comments, though, expressed distrust of developers. Many residents said that the Rescue League was rushing the plan through, giving them little time for input. They also worried that the nonprofit would renege on its promise to distance its animals from the street to diminish noise and smells.

"We've been bombarded into thinking people can come here and do whatever they want to do," Ms. Holliday said. "But that's not true. They can only do what we allow them to do. We're a decision-making community."


Richard Webner: rwebner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-4903.

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