Homeless shelter leads Bedford town council to consider zoning changes

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BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) The appearance of a homeless shelter in Bedford is forcing town leaders to consider changing its zoning regulations.

Grace House has been operating a homeless shelter on Blue Ridge Avenue since last November. The service is part of a larger ministry, but town leaders view the shelter as a "primary use" and they don't believe it fits in with current zoning regulations.

Earlier this month the Bedford town planning commission approved a change to land use regulations, which would allow "Emergency Homeless Shelters" to operate with a special use permit.

"While it's a good idea on paper, I think there are some things that need to be addressed and work through. Some of the language that is in the zoning," said Joshua Ball, pastor of Grace House Ministries.

Ball is concerned about language that would force residents to leave the homeless shelter within six months. He said some people facing homelessness have long-term recovery needs that may require more than a six-month shelter stay.

Bedford's town council will consider approving the zoning changes at their meeting Tuesday night.