Owner continues to fight for rezone to create women’s diversion center in North Little Rock

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NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – An Arkansas woman isn’t taking no for an answer after the North Little Rock Planning Commission denied her request for a rezone. The owner asked to rezone it for a special use so she could house female first time drug offenders before they go to trial.

The property is on main street, right over the bridge from Argenta. Supha Xayprasith-Mays has been working on the building for two years and the original plan was for it to be a multicultural center. While that is still happening, now she’s hoping to use half of the space to house ten women and help them get back on their feet before they go before a judge. While many in the community welcome the center she did get some push back from the planning commission.

“It’s not important to them, but to me it’s important to me,” Xayprasith-Mays said.

Mays says she believes in giving women a second chance.

“They are not criminals, they are not drug dealers, they have not been found guilty of a crime,” Xayprasith-Mays said.

The goal for this center is to give women the tools they need to keep from being repeat offenders.

“They’re going to classes, counseling and they’re not going to be roaming around 24-hours. They are going to be doing things and they have to stay here and it’s closed. They can’t have visitors because they have to focus on them and getting better,” Xayprasith-Mays said.

The hope is a judge will see the work they’ve done and give a lesser sentence and many in the community believe in the project. Telisa Whitley lives behind the building and thinks it’s a great idea.

“It’s a good second chance for those who failed in life and did some wrong things. It’s good to have people to help,” Whitley said.

Ray Ford was homeless when he met Mays and he’s part of her inspiration for the project. She helped him get back on his feet.

“I’ve gotten many jobs just through her,” Ford said.

He thinks Mays could do even more with a home specifically for that purpose.

“It’s going to empower them to do better,” Ford said.

The planning commission didn’t see it that way after a couple people in the community voiced their concerns.

“Y’all want a drug treatment place near your home? that’s what you’re saying we should have and I object,” Business owner Bennie O’Neil said.

Even after hearing no, Mays isn’t giving up.

“Just because someone says no doesn’t mean that’s it, the end, no,” Xayprasith-Mays said.

Mays can get sponsored by a City Council member to create her diversion house. She is trying to educate the community about what would be involved and finalize plans.

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