Dove Creek Residents Demand Removal of Home for Wayward Men
SAN ANGELO, TX — Approaching the newly built ranch gate for the Bishop Street Boot Camp Ranch just off Knickerbocker Road, on the edge of the Dove Creek subdivision southwest of San Angelo, a tall, thin blonde woman met me riding an ATV. “I’m Julie Green Pilgrim,” she said.
I was looking for her husband, Bryan Pilgrim. For the previous two hours, in the living room of a home about a mile west of there, about 50 homeowners of the Dove Creek Subdivision huddled together to decide what they needed to do to get rid of the home for six young men who were about to expand and build a new building, where as many as two dozen wayward men will be housed.
The Bishop Street Boot Camp Ranch, located inside the Dove Creek Subdivision, is a ministry. The ministry does interventions on young men, generally in their 20s, to help turn their lives around before they end up in prison, or worse, dead.
The homeowners were concerned that this newest neighbor in their subdivision, a rural, unincorporated housing area of $300,000 homes on 5-10 acre lots, will cause a public safety problem with “ex-convicts and sex offenders” living in what many at the meeting considered to be a "halfway house full of convicts." The main house, after all, is near where many Dove Creek parents drop their kids off at a bus stop to travel the 20 miles south to attend Christoval's public schools.
Bryan Pilgrim was not named at the meeting, but he is the hard-charging founder and president of the Bishop Street Boot Camp. “We used to be in a two-bedroom home on Bishop Street in San Angelo,” he said, explaining his ministry’s name. After years of working at what he calls his ministry to young men, Pilgrim said a friend showed him to the land off Knickerbocker Road. The larger spread allowed the Pilgrims to expand their ministry, but in order to meet the restrictions on the land to establish a larger boot camp there, Pilgrim needed to find $325,000 to buy it.
Pilgrim said he met a benefactor at a local Bible study. He was seeking just $90,000 to meet the down payment requirements of his bank. “The guy asks me if I wanted to use my bank or his,” Pilgrim recalled. The encounter resulted in a Christian man Pilgrim didn't closely know donating the full purchase price of the land.
Already situated on the property was a middle class, three-bedroom home. Bryan moved his ministry and was soon hosting six young men, helping them overcome addiction and giving the men the needed support to prevent them from getting into further trouble.
One of the young men currently seeking help is Carter Gentry. He’s not a hardened criminal at all. Tom Green County Jail records indicate he was arrested for driving while intoxicated and a few more times in a string of public intoxication charges. Gentry realized he had a problem with addiction and sought help at Pilgrim’s ministry.
He’s now a leader at the ranch, watch his story:
Bryan’s wife of two years, Julie Green Pilgrim, the lady we met at the gate, previously served as the chaplain for the Tom Green County Jail. We met her before, in 2014, when she was ministering to county prisoners during Christmas. She retired from her chaplaincy to partner with her husband full time at the boot camp. “Everyone still knows me as Julie Green,” she said, when asked by she introduced herself with her maiden name.
Julie believes in what she and her husband are doing. “Do you think I’d live here if I thought these young men were dangerous?” she asked.
The schedule is rigorous at the Bishop Street Boot Camp. The men wake at 5:30 a.m., eat breakfast, and attend mandatory Bible study before going to work. The Pilgrim’s ministry has a landscaping company, but the men also work various jobs, as laborers for other companies, like construction contractors. Sunbelt Construction hires the men for its work and a couple of the men worked cleaning out the Roosevelt Hotel downtown recently.
“These guys are from broken homes, broken families. Most of them had hit rock bottom and were on a path aimed at the destruction of their lives,” Bryan said. Law enforcement officers have referred a few to the Boot Camp. Some were referred to them by the jail where Julie maintains her contacts. None are on parole from a prison sentence nor is the boot camp a halfway house. “We’re offering these guys a chance. Giving them a place where they can rebuild their relationships with their families,” Bryan said. One young man was recently reunited with his children and another rekindled his relationship with his mother.
Meanwhile, at the meeting of the homeowners, the bylaws of the homeowner’s association were bisected. “Just because it is a non-profit doesn't mean it’s not a business,” one homeowner said. Businesses in the Dove Creek Subdivision are forbidden with few exceptions.
The 56-page Covenants and Restrictions of the Dove Creek Subdivision gave the Pilgrims an exception. The covenant reads, “The Association or Developer may make such commercial use of the Common Properties, and the Owners may make such use of the Tracts adjoining the San Angelo to Knickerbocker and the Tankersley to Knickerbocker Highways, as the Architectural Control Committee shall determine from time to time.” Pilgrim’s ministry faces the San Angelo to Knickerbocker Highway, also known as Knickerbocker Road. The subdivision’s Architectural Control Committee gave the Pilgrims the green light.
The neighbors however, noticed that the Pilgrims recently cleared their land and built a ranch gate. Furthermore, neighbors noted the Pilgrims were preparing for construction of a new, larger building to house as many as two dozen men.
At the homeowners meeting Tuesday night, members of Dove Creek Subdivision’s Architectural Control Committee came under fire. They, after all, allowed the Boot Camp to get established a year ago, and almost all were wondering, why?
The ACC approves all additions and new construction before the landowner can commence construction. The covenant charges the committee to, “Preserve the value of the Properties and to encourage its prudent and proper development.”
Many at the meeting assumed an elected board of directors appointed members of the ACC. Instead, the covenant states ACC membership is self-perpetuating, with current members selecting their successors. No elected body has ever had this much control over who sits on the committee, especially when they are appointed for life. The only control that the board of directors has is when it removes an ACC member with a super majority of 75 percent of the vote of the board.
The Pilgrims are confident they have done their homework. “We wouldn't have bought this land if we didn't already know what we’re going to do here is within the confines of any deed restrictions,” Bryan Pilgrim said.
As for the homeowners, they are planning to attend the June 7 meeting of the Dove Creek Homeowners Association board at the Dove Creek Volunteer Fire Department firehouse. They want the boot camp out of their neighborhood for good.