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Big Momma’s House needs new location

Big Momma’s House in Pocatello will have to look for a new location after Pocatello’s city council approved an appeal, which overturned the permit for the house.

Big Momma’s House is the faith-based homeless shelter that Pastor Jacqualine Thomas is hoping to start.

The original plan was to make a house on Sublette Street the location for the shelter. It received a conditional use permit granted by the city hearing examiner.

However, the Bonneville Neighborhood Assocation, where Sublette Street sits, filed an appeal on that permit.

The association had two main concerns with the shelter. The first was it wanted to be sure it would be a viable business with proper operating funds. The association wanted to know where the costs to run the shelter would be coming from and if it would be sustainable. Members didn’t feel Thomas and her crew were fully prepared from the business side.

“They had not really put together a complete business plan really outlining exactly what it was going to be,” said Alfreda Vann, secretary for BNA.

Another concern Vann said the association had dealt with a residential city code violation.

“A lot of their information included homeless shelter and according to the municipal code, it defines a homeless shelter as transitional housing, which is not permitted, nor conditionally permitted in any residential zoning district,” Vann said.

That city code is municipal code 17.01.160.

The city council agreed and voted to uphold the appeal.

“The council agreed with the neighborhood that Big Momma’s house did not provide enough evidence that it was a group living supervised facility and not transitional housing,” said Logan McDougall, public information officer for the city.

The difference between supervised living facility and transitional housing is the amount of time someone could stay at the shelter.

Based on what information Big Momma’s was presenting, it was a homeless shelter, meaning transitional housing. That would mean people could stay 30 days or less. But plans of operation for Big Momma’s would seem they had the intent of letting people stay longer if necessary. So there was a bit of a conflict as to what the shelter would actually be and what codes would or would not apply.

The city said Big Momma’s has a few things to consider as it moves forward with its plans.

Thomas said she disagrees as to some of the reasoning behind the appeal but she understands both sides. She also said the council’s decision did not deter her in the slightest.

“We have been called to build Big Momma’s House and this is just a temporary setback which is going to spring us ahead in just a matter of time,” Thomas said. “Big Momma’s House I believe was just sent there by God for us to have, but I also think it was a growing time and a growing period that we needed to prepare ourselves even better the next time around.”

Big Momma’s will need to find a new location for the shelter. Thomas said first thing Friday morning she was already looking for a place. She said she doesn’t have a specific location in mind yet, but she’ll keep looking until she finds something that fits their needs.

Thomas said she’s grateful for all the community support throughout this project, and the continued support. She said she’s also grateful to the homeowners of the house on Sublette for allowing the home to stay off the market until a final decision could be reached on Big Momma’s.

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