12/16/07 — County domestic violence shelter may reopen by end of year

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County domestic violence shelter may reopen by end of year

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 16, 2007 2:14 AM

Progress continues to be made toward the re-opening of Wayne County's domestic violence shelter -- a step officials hope can occur by the end of the year.

"I hope, certainly, by the end of the month," county attorney Borden Parker said, adding that he received the ownership paperwork from the state Housing Finance Authority earlier this week.

The goal, he explained, is for the county to take over the property formerly owned and operated by The Lighthouse of Wayne County, which closed the shelter in November 2006.

Margaret Matrone, director of government relations and communications for the authority, explained that the agreement would give the county ownership of the safehouse without any lien, provided it continues to be used a shelter. The current lien was the result of a $95,000 deferred loan given to the Lighthouse in 1995 by the authority to help it purchase the property.

"If at some point in the future it is not used as a shelter, it would revert to us. As long as the property is being used as a shelter, nothing would be owed," Ms. Matrone explained. "The goal is to keep the shelter, a shelter."

In the meantime, as the final i's are dotted and t's crossed, County Manager Lee Smith said that the building and grounds department is working to make about $30,000 worth of improvements to the building, including the fire suppression sprinkler system and the sump pump in the basement.

Such efforts, he explained, will likely continue even after the county leases the building to Wayne Uplift Resource Association.

"It's likely going to be a dollar-a-year type lease. We're going to assist them," Smith said. "We've got to get this open."

As for its part, Wayne Uplift Director Linda Holden-Cox added, her organization is busy making last-minute preparations.

"All the furnishing are in place. We just need to go in and freshen it up and make sure everything is working," she said.

And, she added, Wayne Uplift is prepared to begin hiring staff as soon as officials get the go ahead. Applications have already been accepted.

"We're trying to be pro-active. Our board will be meeting soon to talk about what we need to do at this point," Mrs. Holden-Cox said. "Once we get that (contract with the county) we'll be ready to roll."

Currently, the nonprofit organization is offering the domestic violence programs formerly offered by the Lighthouse, including court advocacy programs, support groups and classes in anger management, parenting, abuser treatment and domestic violence empowerment.

To contact Wayne Uplift, residents can call its 24-hour hotline -- 736-1313 for English and 394-1621 for Spanish -- or visit its offices at 719 E. Ash St.