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Archive for Thursday, March 14, 1991

MONEY WOES MAY CLOSE LOCAL HOMELESS SHELTER

March 14, 1991

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A local shelter for homeless people could close soon because of insufficient funding.

The Salvation Army Safe House, 924 N.H., could be shut down because it is too expensive for the Salvation Army to operate on its own without other funding sources, said John Churchill, local director of the Salvation Army.

Churchill said grants from the city and state and from Salvation Army division headquarters in Chicago helped open the center in January 1990 and pay for the first six or seven months of operation.

However, Salvation Army board members said a continuing source of funding has not been established. The Safe House has incurred more than $50,000 in expenses since last fall that the Salvation Army has had to cover. The annual cost of operating the shelter exceeds $100,000, he said.

"From our point of view, we just can't continue to go into debt," he said.

"We anticipated additional support from the United Way and from the city," Churchill said.

HOWEVER, when Safe House financial problems began last fall, no large-scale funding efforts were undertaken to help defray the expenses.

Several Salvation Army board members contacted by the Journal-World said they did not know why such efforts weren't started when grant money for the safe house was gone.

"I don't really know what they pinned their hopes on," said David Longhurst, a Salvation Army board member.

Another board member, Philip McKnight, said, "I don't really know what their expectations were."

Other board members referred Safe House inquiries to Richard Zinn, chairman of the Salvation Army board of directors. Zinn was out of town today and unavailable for comment.

Churchill said Salvation Army officials expected "institutionalized funding" from such sources as the United Way of Douglas County and the City of Lawrence to pay the more than $50,000 in expenses.

Jeannie Blankenship, Safe House director, said efforts to come up with additional funds have been made, but she would not elaborate on the efforts.

SOME EVENTS, such as a Homeless Campaign held at Kansas University last month, raised money for the Safe House, but have had limited impact, organizers said.

City Manager Mike Wildgen said today that the Salvation Army has received $8,000 in city funds this year and has received funding for the past several years. No special request for extra Safe House funding has been made this year, he said.

Barb Smith, United Way executive director, said the Salvation Army expected a larger United Way allocation than it received last year because of the addition of the Safe House.

"When we gave the (Salvation Army) allocation amount for this year, they felt that we didn't fund the Safe House," Smith said.

"My fear is that if they close down, the United Way will be blamed for not funding them, and that is just not true," Smith said.

Smith said funding decisions are left to a committee and she is not certain why committee members did not dramatically increase funding for the Salvation Army after the Safe House opened in January 1990.

In 1989-90, United Way allocated $57,035 to Salvation Army. In 1990-91, Salvation Army received $58,568 in United Way money. The United Way distributes funds each November.

Smith said the United Way could not provide special funding for the Salvation Army Safe House now. "That would be unfair to all the other agencies that provide services for the community," she said.

THE FATE of the house may be decided Monday afternoon, when a Salvation Army Safe House task force meets to discuss the shelter's budget. The task force, comprised of about 10 Salvation Army board members, could recommend closing the house, or try to raise funds to keep the Safe House open. Zinn chairs the task force.

The Safe House provides temporary housing for about 19 people, including families and singles, Churchill said. It was established to replace a temporary shelter in the Salvation Army Church, 946 N.H.

"It's (Safe House) been full since the day we opened it up," Churchill said.

Several homeless residents also spend each night at the temporary shelter in the gymnasium of the Salvation Army church. However, the temporary facility only is open October through March, and is not suitable for families.

"I don't know where the families can go if it (Safe House) closes," he said. "It's such a valuable program, it would be a shame to close it down."

A telephone line that Safe House residents used for local personal calls was disconnected this week to reduce costs. The Safe House still will have a business telephone, but residents' access will be limited, Churchill said.

SAFE HOUSE expenses include rent and utilities, food, staff salaries, and building maintenance and repairs. The house is owned by Greg Polk, Lawrence.

The Salvation Army raised more than $115,000 in a bell-ringing campaign this year. It also received more than $58,000, from the United Way, Smith said.

The Salvation Army, which offers several low-income assistance services, determines how much money will go to the Safe House, Smith said.

This year's United Way funding amounts will be determined May 8 by a committee of about 17 United Way board members and 11 other people in the community not directly affiliated with agencies.

Because the funding amounts will be decided by nearly 30 people, Smith said, it is difficult to determine how much money the Salvation Army or other agencies would receive.

"If they can hold on until May 8, then they can at least know what their allocation amount will be," Smith said.

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