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Pa. homeless shelter faces possible fines

July 16, 2004|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Volunteers running the New Hope Shelter face fines or possible eviction of its nearly 50 residents if they fail to correct 30 violations discovered this week in a surprise inspection, Waynesboro Fire Marshal Jerry Hartman said Thursday.

Hartman, who on Tuesday inspected the homeless shelter at 25 S. Potomac St., said the fire alarm system worked when he pulled handles throughout the building, but none of the 16 residents inside at the time went outside when it sounded.

"What good is it to have a working fire alarm if people inside don't leave the building when it goes off?" he said.

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Hartman ordered the shelter closed in September when an inspection, in addition to a long list of violations, showed the alarm system was not working.

About 40 residents lived there at the time and had to move out within 24 hours.

The shelter reopened in April.

Peg Spangler, a member of the shelter's board of directors, said Thursday that 49 residents, including 21 children, live in the shelter. Hartman said the building's legal capacity is 52.

He said Thursday no staff person is on duty overnight, leaving the residents on their own.

He said in a cover letter listing the 30 violations to board member William Krouse, "You are short two staff members at this time and still take on new residents when you can't sufficiently and properly take care of the needs of the ones you currently have."

Many of the violations Hartman cited following Tuesday's inspection have little to do with the borough's fire codes, Krouse said.

He said all 30 violations will be corrected by Hartman's 10-day deadline. About 10 had been corrected by Thursday afternoon, he said.

Hartman said a lot of what he saw Tuesday had more to do with health and housekeeping issues, many of which made his list.

He said rooms were dirty, clothes were piled on floors, trash was piled up in places, garbage containers overflowed, bathrooms weren't clean, pigeons have entered the top floor of the four-story building through a broken window and left droppings on mattresses and furniture stored there.

Hartman said he may contact health department officials if conditions don't improve at the shelter.

Fire code violations included lack of seal tags on fire extinguishers, a fan left running on a pile of clothes in one bedroom, unsealed ceilings and ductwork, a strip receptacle in one room that could overload a circuit, no smoke detector in the kitchen and unplugged emergency lights.

Krouse questioned Hartman's jurisdiction in citing the shelter for housekeeping problems that he said have nothing to do with fire code violations.

"We have nearly 50 people living here. The trash gets emptied every day. We have 21 children, and like all children they leave toys around," Krouse said.

Krouse said he and Spangler would stay in the shelter at night until more staffers are recruited.

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