Mission's need will remain when overpass is complete

By the Herald editorial staff

The price of progress sometimes comes at a cost to an organization that can't -- or shouldn't -- bear the burden.

In this case, the cost is facing the Tri-City Union Gospel Mission in Pasco, and the progress is a new overpass on Lewis Street.

If the project proceeds as planned, the mission will lose two buildings, a large storage container and its off-street parking.

The city plans to buy 26 properties in the two blocks around the Lewis Street so it can convert the old underpass below the railroad tracks to a safer overpass.

Anyone who has driven on Lewis Street knows the underpass we're talking about. The narrow lanes make it an adventure to navigate in modern-sized vehicles.

Pasco needs a safer way for pedestrians and vehicles to bypass the tracks that bisect the city.

But our community's neediest members shouldn't have to pay the price.

The mission serves 5,500 meals per month and provides provisions to 60 families each week. Clothing and household items are also provided to local families in need.

About 100 folks call the shelter home each night, with another 35 sleeping on the chapel floor because all the beds are full.

The mission provides a way for many in our community to give back, whether it be through packaging holiday food boxes or serving mashed potatoes by the scoop. Many youngsters have learned valuable lessons about life through service there.

The need for the mission and its services is clear. So is the need for the new overpass.

But taking away storage and maintenance facilities will cripple the mission's ability to serve its purpose.

Yes, the mission is that in the purest sense -- it is faith-based and service driven. But the services it provides take a huge burden off Pasco and other city governments.

If the 100-plus folks sleeping at the mission didn't have that facility, they could very well be sleeping on Tri-City sidewalks or alleyways.

In essence, Pasco risks shooting itself in the foot if it slashes the mission's ability to function.

The mission probably could relocate. But that takes money, a commodity that always seems to be in short supply for an organization aimed at good works.

Then there's the NIMBY factor: How many neighborhoods will be receptive to the mission and its clientele? Be honest.

With the city hoping to find the money for the $31 million overpass in the next three years, the mission does have some time to explore its options. And those who want to help the mission remain a wholly -- and holy -- functioning entity have time to jump on the bandwagon. We see a real role for churches in helping the mission stay on its path.

And there is a sliver of hope for the true believers -- the mission's leaders plan to question the city's need to take its properties for the overpass project. They say plans show the overpass would go around the facility. The city says it will purchase only the properties it needs.

While that challenge moves forward, we challenge thecommunity to help come up with a long-term solution for the success of the Tri-City Union Gospel Mission. All of our lives are enriched by its presence.