In the dark

The Covington News - - OPINION -

The lead­er­ship and of­fi­cials at the Garden of Geth­se­mane Home­less Shel­ter seem to be sat­is­fied liv­ing on the brink of shut­ting down and re­main­ing mired in medi­ocrity.

With funds once again close to ex­hausted, the shel­ter’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, the Rev. Clara Lett and more than a dozen of her ad­vo­cates cir­cled the wag­ons, shut down ques­tion­ing of the shel­ter and strong-armed Cov­ing­ton Mayor Ron­nie John­ston into back­ing off his ef­forts to re­struc­ture the shel­ter’s lead­er­ship.

Lett called a meet­ing Tues­day be­tween her­self, her sup­port­ers and John­ston, but the meet­ing played out ex­actly the way many knew though it would.

Shel­ter of­fi­cials and ad­vo­cates, led by board mem­ber Sam Per­ry­man, told John­ston they felt his crit­i­cisms were un­fair and off base and told the mayor the shel­ter didn’t have to an­swer to the city. They also asked him to re­tract state­ments that if noth­ing was done, the shel­ter would die “a slow death.”

Per­ry­man said the shel­ter has sur­vived for many years and he’s ab­so­lutely right, but for most of the time close to the edge of in­sol­vency and clo­sure.

The only per­son who came to the mayor’s de­fense was former mayor Sam Ram­sey, who said he asked John­ston to help out a shel­ter in se­ri­ous need of do­na­tions. Ram­sey said he agreed with many of John­ston’s ques­tions, in­clud­ing those about the ef­fec­tive­ness of a board that rarely was able to do busi­ness be­cause it lacked a quo­rum.

While it’s true that the mayor has no author­ity over the shel­ter, it’s also clear to many that the shel­ter is in true need of a lead­er­ship change. We don’t un­der­stand how the fact can be de­nied by any­one.

We’ve seen the good the shel­ter does and how it truly helps peo­ple who are vic­tims of bad luck or sit­u­a­tions they couldn’t es­cape. We think the mayor said it right: if we’re go­ing to have a shel­ter, let’s make it the best one in the state.

Al­low the shel­ter to be run by true pro­fes­sion­als — mul­ti­ple of whom have vol­un­teered to do the job for free — and al­low Lett to re­main the day-to-day man­ager. She has an in­cred­i­bly tough job; no one is ar­gu­ing that, but if she can’t see that she can’t ef­fec­tively run a shel­ter and be will­ing to seek ex­pert help, then we’re du­bi­ous as to how much longer it can stay open.

Al­low for an out­side au­dit of the fi­nances, poli­cies and pro­ce­dures. In our ex­pe­ri­ence, there’s lit­tle rea­son for pub­lic or non­profit en­ti­ties to refuse to let the light shine on their op­er­a­tions and books. That at­ti­tude al­ways makes us ner­vous, and this isn’t the first time the shel­ter has stonewalled at­tempts to ex­am­ine its records.

Fi­nally, the board of direc­tors needs to ex­am­ine its role and be­come en­gaged. It needs to carry out its prom­ise to re­or­ga­nize it­self and get the shel­ter on sound foot­ing, but we’ll be­lieve that when we see it.

At night, the park­ing lot of the shel­ter is one of the dark­est places in New­ton County. One has to be in­cred­i­bly cau­tious as they drive away, nav­i­gat­ing a world of chil­dren play­ing and adults sim­ply try­ing to make the best of a bad sit­u­a­tion. Given cur­rent man­age­ment’s closed and se­cre­tive ap­proach and the board’s ab­di­ca­tion of its lead­er­ship re­spon­si­bil­ity, it’s no won­der we’re all in the dark about where to go. Wouldn’t a lit­tle light help solve many of the prob­lems that plague this sit­u­a­tion?

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