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Homeless shelter takes funding hit

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By Calen McKinney

 

They want to continue helping those who don't have homes find them. But to do that, they need some help.

Green River Ministries staff members, who operate the community's homeless shelter, recently learned the shelter wasn't awarded the funding they depend on to operate. As a result, GRM has placed a temporary halt on housing those who need a place to say. And there are currently eight people on a waiting list who need that housing.

But GRM officials say its operation isn't closed and they hope the temporary halt, with help from the community, will soon be lifted.

GRM Board of Directors Chair Dan Durham recently wrote letters to city and county government officials requesting ideas to help the shelter keen operating.

In his letter, Durham writes that GRM houses Taylor County Food Pantry, Taylor County Crisis Relief, Campbellsville Lion's Club, Campbellsville/Taylor County Habitat for Humanity and other organizations.

GRM began in 2002 as a nonprofit organization to serve the Campbellsville area, Durham wrote, with a homeless shelter and other ministries, effectively serving as a "one-stop shop" for those in need.

"Since our inception, we have relied entirely on private donations and grant funding to operate. Due to the lack of grant funding now available, we are seeking options to continue operations."

Last Tuesday, Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers told magistrates at their monthly meeting there are many entities in dire need of financial help.

Durham's letter was given to magistrates for their consideration. There was little discussion, though Rogers said magistrates would hear more about GRM's funding problem in the future.

GRM's homeless shelter opened in February 2007. At that time, GRM was located in a blue house close to its current location, 55 Clem Haskins Blvd. The city donated the land and house to GRM.

In May 2007, GRM received a $365,000 USDA grant/loan to build an office complex, which stands today.

Debbie Carter, vice chair of the GRM Board of Directors, and one of those who have been involved with the organization from its inception, said GRM began as a way to help people in a Christ-centered environment.

"We knew we needed some type of emergency homeless shelter," she said. "The goal is to try to help the people not be homeless again.

"And we have some great success stories."

There are 15 members of the GRM Board of Directors. They are all volunteers.

From July 1, 2012, to April 11, 2013, GRM housed 51 people. Durham said there are about 10 people who come to the office each day for help.

Those who work at GRM help residents develop skills they need to be able to support themselves, from finding a job to helping pay rent and more.

GRM's homeless shelter can house up to eight people at a time, more if they are part of the same family.

Misty Curry was the first director at GRM. Rosalind Strong took over after Curry moved to another position. But since GRM has lost its major source of funding, an emergency shelter grant, it has no director. Strong is now working another job.

Leslie Carver, a Campbellsville University master of social work student, will work at GRM through May for school credit, Carter said, and there is a part-time worker, Shirley Cheatham, to answer the phone and complete paperwork and other administrative duties.

At one time, Carter said, there were three full-time employees at GRM.

In addition to no longer having a director, GRM's office hours have been cut. The office was open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Now, hours are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Patricia Sprowles, the GRM Board of Director's treasurer, said GRM applied for $62,750 in emergency shelter grant funding in April. The grant is administered through the Kentucky Housing Corp. and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The board learned in August that it didn't receive any money.

GRM competes with similar agencies all across the state for funding.

"That money is dwindling and becoming more competitive," Durham said.

Carter said GRM can survive on about $62,750 a year, when considering operating costs, a mortgage payment each month and utility costs.

"I mean, it's tight," she said. "We don't need a huge amount to operate."

Carter said she believes a large misconception about GRM is that if someone donates to the crisis relief center or food pantry, they have also donated to GRM. That's not the case, she said. The agency that gets the donation is the one that benefits, unless specified otherwise.

Carter said she doesn't want people to stop donating to the food pantry or crisis relief center.

"We just want them to add us," she said. "Even $25 a month. If 50 churches donate, that's a lot of money."

GRM operates on grant funding and donations, Carter said. She said GRM gets money from FEMA and received money from President Barack Obama's stimulus package. Local fundraisers, including Cardboard Nation at CU and an annual soup lunch, also help keep GRM going, as does some rent collected from tenants who have offices at the GRM building.

Now, GRM must depend on the donations, rent and fundraisers to keep the mortgage paid and the utilities in service. Carter said some donations are larger, from $2,000 to $3,000, while others are $50 or less.

Durham said the GRM office has space for rent, should an office be looking for a place to set up shop.

He said he wrote the letter to city and county governments to start a dialogue about what GRM and the community can do to keep its homeless shelter.

"We know there are many agencies with their hands out," he said.

But Carter, Durham and Sprowles say they believe GRM provides a vital service to the community - and those in need.

"We want to empower them to change their situation," Carter said. "We link people to resources."

Carter said some people might not know what GRM is - or even that there are homeless people in Taylor County. Those who are out of a job, moving out of a home while going through a divorce or separation or staying with friends are considered displaced or homeless.

"A lot of people don't know we're here," Carter said.

"We don't see the people on the street," Sprowles said. "Take us away and see ... "

Sprowles, Carter and Durham say they don't want the lack of funding to be the end of GRM.

"That's not our goal," Sprowles said.

Carter said she believes GRM helps people find homes and possibly cuts down on domestic violence and crime by helping people improve their lives before the get desperate and resort to crime and violence.

And with some help, Durham said, he hopes GRM can soon begin to house people again.

"Those that are in need are gonna have to go somewhere," he said.

Carter said there isn't another homeless shelter near Campbellsville. The closest are in Lexington and Louisville.

Sprowles said GRM has never solicited donations before.

"We've never asked for a lot of donations from our community," she said. "We need help."

Carter agrees.

"We believe in this," she said. "We're a great community. We don't want people in our community to be suffering needlessly."

Carter said the community has a reputation of rebounding after struggle, like after Fruit of the Loom closed.

"We want to keep that reputation going," she said.

On Nov. 16, GRM will host a "Hearts 2 Help" Christian concert to raise money for its operations. Cost is donation only. The event will be at CU's Ransdell Chapel. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the concert will begin at 6:30.

The next Cardboard Nation fundraiser will be in the spring at CU. The next soup fundraiser will be in February.

Those wanting to donate to GRM can mail a check to Green River Ministries, 55 Clem Haskins Blvd., Campbellsville, Ky., 42718.