Home­less shel­ter out of fund­ing

Ram­sey asks City Coun­cil for ideas, help rais­ing money

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­news.com

Cov­ing­ton’s home­less shel­ter con­tin­ues to op­er­ate on the verge of shut­ting down, with only $153 in the bank, more than $1,000 in out­stand­ing bills, and a likely $4,000-plus util­ity bill com­ing due this month, shel­ter board mem­ber Sam Ram­sey told the Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil Mon­day night.

How­ever, Ram­sey wasn’t ask­ing the city coun­cil for fi­nan­cial help. The city and the Cov­ing­ton Hous- ing Au­thor­ity, the shel­ter’s land­lord, can­not do­nate money di­rectly and have helped to re­duce costs; Ram­sey was seek­ing ideas and help rais­ing money.

Ram­sey said the Gar­den of Geth­se­mane Home­less Shel­ter has bills due and hasn’t been able to pay the shel­ter’s di­rec­tor, the Rev. Clara Lett, any­thing this year. He said the shel­ter is ba­si­cally $18,259 in debt, in­clud­ing:

• $100 bill for pest con­trol

• $358. 21 for fi­nan­cial ser­vices

• $35.37 for Crys­tal Springs bot­tled wa­ter

• $65.99 for Di­rect TV

• $60 owed to the New­ton County Tax Com­mis­sioner’s Of­fice

• $339.66 for State Farm In­sur­ance

• $500 monthly rent to Cov­ing­ton Hous­ing Au­thor­ity

• $16,800 in back salary for Clara Lett ($1,400 a month)

Ram­sey said he’s ba­si­cally

ask­ing the com­mu­nity where it wants “to go with this thing,” be­cause the shel­ter has been run­ning on a shoe­string bud­get well be­low the $9,000–$10,000 per month bud­get it needs to ef­fec­tively op­er­ate.

He also went to Rock­dale County to ask of­fi­cials there for fund­ing, since peo­ple from Rock­dale and other sur­round­ing coun­ties also stay at the shel­ter. Lett said Tues­day the shel­ter has seen fewer res­i­dents this year, in part be­cause, for a pe­riod of time, it stopped ac­cept­ing Rock­dale res­i­dents, since no or­ga­ni­za­tions in the county were pro­vid­ing any sup­port. Lett said the is­sue was re­cently worked out as or­ga­ni­za­tions re­al­ized the dif­fi­culty of not be­ing able to re­fer res­i­dents to the Cov­ing­ton home­less shel­ter. There are 23 peo­ple stay­ing at the shel­ter cur­rently, well be­low last year, when al­most 80 peo­ple were stay­ing there, Ram­sey said.

Ram­sey said the shel­ter has seen a lot of com­mu­nity sup­port in terms of food do­na­tions and vol­un­teer ef­forts, as well as some church con­tri­bu­tions, but do­na­tions aren’t high enough on a con­sis­tent ba­sis. One is­sue is that the shel­ter has not re­ceived any state grants for the past few years, though it did pre­vi­ously.

Ram­sey thanked the city and other groups for their help, in­clud­ing:

• Cov­ing­ton agree­ing to put the shel­ter on res­i­den­tial elec­tric­ity rates, which are less ex­pen­sive than com­mer­cial elec­tric­ity rates.

• The hous­ing au­thor­ity in­stalling a $4,800 air conditioning unit to keep the kitchen cool enough to cook in and only charg­ing $500 in rent a month.

• The Cov­ing­ton Po­lice Dept. do­nat­ing $6,000 of Fuzz Run pro­ceeds to pay rent.

• Gen­eral Mills do­nat­ing $10,000.

Ram­sey also per­son­ally in­stalled an air con­di­tioner in the of­fice area.

Ram­sey said Ox­ford res­i­dent Erik Oliver has done some grant writ­ing for the city, but no grants have yet been re­ceived, in­clud­ing money from Ge­or­gia, as there’s lit­tle money avail­able. The shel­ter also has no money for grants that re­quire match­ing funds.

Last fall, Cov­ing­ton Mayor Ron­nie John­ston per­son­ally so­licited money for the shel­ter af­ter it was past due on util­ity pay­ments and sug­gested a re­vised or­ga­ni­za­tional struc­ture with a more in­volved board com­mit­ted to rais­ing funds and ad­di­tional vol­un­teers seek­ing out grants. For­mer board mem­ber the Rev. Sam Per­ry­man said at the time the board would work on im­prov­ing its struc­ture and didn’t have any ques­tions about the shel­ter’s fi­nances or its man­age­ment un­der Lett.

Much of the board has changed, Ram­sey said, and he be­lieves it is head­ing in the right di­rec­tion, but get­ting the shel­ter in the black is “just a mam­moth job.”

Ac­cord­ing to Lett, new board mem­bers are Oliver, Sharon Sawyer, Jean Jensen and El­liot Roth. Jane Bal­lard may also join the board. Holdover mem­bers are Ram­sey, Win­ston Wil­liams, chair Doug Doster and trea­surer Cheryl Heard.

John­ston asked Ram­sey what would hap­pen to the shel­ter’s res­i­dents if it had to close. Ram­sey said he didn’t know, but said some might go to the square to sleep. Lett said Tues­day some res­i­dents might be placed in other shel­ters, but oth­ers would be left to stay on the streets.

“I don’t be­lieve God will al­low that to hap­pen, but if it did, that would be re­al­ity; I think (it) would be a sad day in New­ton County and other coun­ties, too,” said Lett, who added that the shel­ter is about 15 years old and has “seen some hard and tough times, but I be­lieve (God) will con­tinue to have his hand on our min­istry and pro­vide.”

Lett said she hasn’t asked for her salary be­cause run­ning the shel­ter is a call­ing she’s com­mit­ted to.

“There are still some folks in the com­mu­nity who don’t know we have a shel­ter; maybe it’s be­cause we haven’t op­er­ated like other shel­ters, with peo­ple ly­ing out in the park­ing lot and in cars. Our struc­ture is so good some peo­ple don’t even know we’re here.”

The shel­ter is at 7133 Turner Lake Cir­cle in Cov­ing­ton. Though money is the cur­rent crit­i­cal need, Lett said the shel­ter can also al­ways use vol­un­teers, par­tic­u­larly to help pre­pare meals, and sup­plies, in­clud­ing soap, sham­poo, laun­dry de­ter­gent, dish­wash­ing liq­uid and pa­per prod­ucts.

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