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Shelter faces obstacles

July 07, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Efforts by a group of volunteers to build a 70-bed homeless shelter in an old factory building have hit several snags, chief of which is the failure to raise enough money to get things started.

Fund-raising efforts are being slowed by concerns among some officials and residents that the shelter will attract an undesirable element to the community, said Violet Schmid, a local real estate broker and travel agent who is the main force behind the project.

"There's a big misconception that we'll be bringing in homeless people from the cities," Schmid said. What many residents don't understand is that there already are homeless people in the community and most of them are children, she said at a meeting of the board Monday night.

Barbara Gates, a board member and past director of the Waynesboro Area Human Service Center, said the center helped 150 homeless individuals and families in 1997.

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The group wants to build the shelter in a three-story building at 25 S. Potomac St., that until 1996 housed Connie's Sportswear, a garment factory. The building is owned by a New Jersey real estate investor.

Schmid said she and her husband, Gerry Schmid, will buy the building today for $80,000 by co-signing the note for the shelter. About $20,000 will need to be raised for the down payment and the rest of the money will be borrowed, she said.

A fund-raising telethon in June only brought in about $1,400, she said.

Urtha Lenharr, another board member, said the shelter board now has tax-free, non-exempt status, allowing it to apply for grants and accept donations.

"Now we are a viable organization," he said.

The group plans to turn the first floor of the building into an emergency shelter. Eventual plans call for converting the two upper floors into subsidized transitional apartments where homeless families and individuals can get back on their feet, the members said.

The upstairs apartments could take three to five years to open, "but we will have an emergency shelter on the first floor by November," vowed Schmid.

The board hopes to raise $40,000 in donations of cash, building materials, labor and furnishings.

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