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Homeless shelter has new hope for reopening

March 02, 2004|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - If things check out in a March 10 inspection, the New Hope Shelter will be able to reopen later this month, Waynesboro's fire marshal said Monday.

Shelter officials said the facility will open March 15, but only as an emergency cold-weather shelter. It will be open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily as a place for people to get out of the cold, Frank Kocek, acting shelter director, said Monday.

He said the shelter will be supervised during the night by a qualified live-in resident.

The shelter is expected to reopen as a full-service facility next month, taking in homeless individuals and families like it did before it was shut down last year.

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Jerry Hartman, Waynesboro's fire marshal, said he last inspected the four-story building Thursday.

"They still have a few minor items to take care of," Hartman said.

If they are corrected by his March 10 inspection, he will give the shelter his OK to reopen.

He said he is pleased with the progress shelter officials have made in bringing the old garment factory building into compliance with borough fire codes.

Much of the wiring has been replaced, the fire alarm system is working and smoke detectors are in place, Hartman said.

"There are still a few items to be cleaned out of the second floor and the third floor has been cleaned up," he said.

Before it was closed, the second and third floors of the building, which abuts the borough's fire house, was filled with combustible materials including clothing, old furniture and bedding.

Shelter officials also have come up with a fire evacuation plan for its residents. Hartman said he is reviewing the plan.

"They've got everything up to code," he said. "I'm really pleased and impressed with what they have done."

Hartman said he would continue to make routine inspections of the shelter after it reopens and will not hesitate to shut it down again if it violates the fire code.

"I'm going to be tough," he said. "If the fire alarm fails again, they'll have 48 hours to fix it."

Fire code violations have not been the shelter's only problem. It never has had adequate financing, according to the people running it.

The shelter has a mortgage of nearly $100,000, with monthly payments of $800.

An anonymous donor has offered to pay $400 a month toward the mortgage payments for up to a year if the shelter can come up with the rest - something it has not been able to do so far, Kocek said. He said it costs about $2,500 a month to run the shelter when it's fully occupied.

He said the shelter has scheduled a workathon for Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

"We need as many persons as possible to help," Kocek said.

Also needed are volunteers to lay linoleum and vinyl floor covering in the kitchen and baths. The floor covering materials also are needed.

The shelter needs personal hygiene items, trash bags, bedding, towels and washcloths, food, flatware and dishes and cleaning products.

Kocek, in a recent letter to the Waynesboro Borough Council, said the shelter could receive a $272,000 federal Housing and Urban Development grant provided it can come up with a matching grant of $140,000.

He asked the council for a $47,000 share of the $195,000 the borough expects to get this year in Community Development Block Grant funds.

The council has offered no commitment.

The HUD money would be used to build 12 efficiency apartment units on the second and third floors of the shelter building, Kocek wrote. It can't be spent on the emergency shelter, which occupies the first floor.

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