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Shelter to charge residents a fee

June 21, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Residents who live at the Franklin County Homeless Shelter are being asked to pay $50 a week for living there to help defray the cost of running the facility, its director said Friday.

David Nemitz is program director of the shelter at 223 S. Main St. and a shelter in Gettysburg, Pa., both of which are run by the South Central Community Action Program.

He said the Gettysburg shelter has been charging residents for about a year.

Officials at the financially struggling New Hope Shelter at 25 S. Potomac St. in Waynesboro said they are starting to charge residents there, too.

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Peg Spangler, a member of the New Hope Shelter's board of directors, said individual residents pay $25 a week, couples pay $40 a week and the shelter charges $7.50 a week for each child.

Spangler said the Waynesboro shelter had 41 residents Friday afternoon. It has a capacity for 51, she said.

Nemitz said residents in the Chambersburg facility are being asked to pay the fee to help to support the shelter and make it less dependent on government funding. The fees also help pay for programs aimed at helping residents become self-sufficient.

"We don't see a problem asking them to contribute toward the cost of keeping them here and working with them," Nemitz said.

He said community reaction to the fees in Gettysburg was favorable.

"Our charitable donations doubled from $10,000 to $20,000," he said.

Reaction from shelter residents was mixed when the fees went into effect in August, he said. One group was vehemently opposed, while a larger group had no complaints.

"No one left because of the fees," he said.

Nemitz said some residents in the Chambersburg shelter have had concerns about the fee.

About half are expected to be able to pay it. Those who can't won't be turned away, he said.

It costs about $70 a day to house a resident in the shelter.

"Charging $50 a week won't come close to covering our costs," he said. "We anticipate the fees would only bring in $9,000 to $10,000 a year. That's a small portion of our budget." The annual budget for the Chambersburg shelter is $205,000 a year, about three-fourths of which comes from federal, state and local government agencies. The rest comes from private donations.

The shelter ended the last fiscal year $8,000 in the red.

"We would not have had a deficit if we had been charging clients last year," he said.

The Chambersburg shelter has been at the same South Main Street location for 17 years. It has a capacity for 24 residents and averages about 18 at any given time, Nemitz said.

There is no average shelter resident, he said.

"They tend to be single adults with mental health or addiction issues," he said. The ratio between men and women residents is about even, he said.

Families in the shelter tend to be young with children younger than 8 years old, Nemitz said. Many are single-parent families.

"Most families are young and haven't had a chance to build up any resources," he said. "If they have a setback of any kind, they have nothing to fall back on."

The average stay for residents is about six weeks, although there is no defined limit.

"It depends on how much effort they make to become employed," he said. "If they're not employable then we hook them up with support agencies that can provide them with income or public assistance."

There are 10 rooms on the first floor of the three-story shelter building. The two upper floors have two rental apartments each. The plan is to convert the second floor, which is vacant, into living quarters for families, Nemitz said.

The shelter has kitchen and laundry facilities, three bathrooms with showers, a children's playroom and a garden area out back.

It has a paid staff of seven full-time employees and two who work part time.

Nemitz has run the Chambersburg shelter since 2001 and the Gettysburg facility for 11 years.

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