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Shelter sprucing up, hopes to reopen soon

November 29, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO - The people running the New Hope Shelter at 25 S. Potomac St., which was closed in September for fire code violations, said they hope to reopen the homeless facility around Christmas.

That's a little optimistic, said Waynesboro fire Marshal Jerry Hartman, who ordered the shelter closed and the eviction of its 42 residents Sept. 18 about the same time that Tropical Storm Isabel was due to hit the area.

Hartman and Doug Pyle, zoning officer and building inspector for Waynesboro, have been making routine inspections of the three-story brick building which shares a common wall with the borough firehouse.

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Hartman closed the shelter following an inspection in September that showed that the building's fire alarm system was not working. He said at the time that while he was sorry to put the residents out on the street in the face of what was then predicted as a hurricane, he felt he had no choice because of the alarm system.

Shelter officials had to scramble to find emergency housing for the evicted residents.

The board of directors that runs the shelter was given a list of violations that needed correction, including repair of the alarm system, meeting fire code regulations on ceilings and walls and cleaning out piles of old clothing and furniture from the building to reduce fire hazards.

Pyle said his and Hartman's inspections of the building, done every other week, show that the volunteers who run the facility are making progress toward meeting the fire codes.

"We walked through today (Wednesday) and they are coming along," Pyle said. "They're working hard at it and they've done a lot of work."

He and Hartman said they believe the shelter will be able to reopen after the first of the year if the same progress continues.

"Every time we go in, we see big improvements," Pyle said. "We'll be going in more often as they get closer to opening."

Hartman said all of the abandoned wiring in the building has been removed at his request and the furniture and piles of old clothes on the second and third floors and in the basement thrift shop have been removed or properly stored.

Ceilings on the first floor living area have been brought up to code too, he said.

The fire alarm system still is not working, Hartman said.

Frank Kocek, interim director of the shelter, said 80 percent of the fire alarm system is working.

"We just have to troubleshoot one circuit," he said.

Kocek said the shelter, through fund-raisers and donations, has raised about $9,000 since it was closed in September. Very little money has had to be spent on materials to meet the fire marshal's demands, he said. All of the labor is being done by volunteers, he said.

Peg Spangler, a member of the shelter's board of directors, said about 15 former shelter residents have found permanent housing in units owned by the Franklin County Housing Authority. One family is living temporarily in a motel, two are in private homes, two are living with relatives and two families are renting apartments.

The whereabouts of another four to five former shelter residents are unknown, Spangler said.

The shelter opened in March and has struggled to stay open since, officials said.

It costs $1,800 a month to operate when it is full of residents, Kocek said. That's where most of the money raised since September will be used. Fund-raising is an ongoing project at the shelter.

Spangler said she expects that the shelter will be filled again within two months after it opens.

From March to September, when the shelter closed, 112 people found temporary or emergency housing in the facility, Spangler said.

"Most of them spent a week or two here," she said.

Shelter officials are considering charging residents who can afford it to pay $25 a week to stay in the facility.

Anyone wishing to donate to the shelter may call 717-762-5840.

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