Developer scheduled to discuss concerns, future of Golden Rule Mission
|Current developers of The Golden Rule Mission are scheduled to continue discussions about the situation at the Helper facility with city officials. |
Representatives from the state division of housing and the developer rehabilitating the homeless shelter in Helper will be at Thursday night's city council meeting.
The Helper visit by Ben Logue from the Salt Lake-based La Porte Group follows on the heels of a heated discussion about Golden Rule at the March 20 city council meeting.
Several Main Street business owners painted a dire picture of interactions with a few of the shelter residents.
After sharing stories of rape threats and overt harassment, Mark Stuckenschneider, the owner of Balance Rock Eatery & Pub said, "I am in the process of getting a concealed weapons permit."
Mayor Mike Dalpiaz and the council seemed taken aback by incidents, Stuckenschneider was bringing to them and expressed dismay that the police had not been called in to handle the situations.
"For eight years, we have been trying to handle things on our own," said Stuckenschneider.
He told the council that the incidents have basically changed his role from cook to bodyguard as his female employees had become fearful of going outside alone at night.
"They are starting to carry mace," he said.
Stuckenschneider's appearance before the council coincides closely with what is expected to be a major change at the three-decade old facility.
Presently owned by the state, the mission is changing hands to private ownership of Ben Logue and the La Porte Group, who plan to invest approximately $2 million into the building.
The plans include turning most of the rooms into single occupancy, adding a comprehensive security system and cameras, conducting criminal background checks and transforming the interior with high quality materials.
"When they (La Porte) is done with the Golden Rule it will nicer than most of the homes in Helper," Bob Tanner, chairperson of the mission board said. "This will be one of the best things to ever happen to Helper, the inside will be fabulous."
Tanner bristled a bit on hearing about the accusations made against the homeless shelter.
Recently released from the hospital, Tanner was not present at the March 20 meeting and questioned whether some of the business owners might not be erroneously attributing acts to mission residents.
He pointed to another hotel in town that he maintains has lax standards and draws troublemakers.
"I am not sure that the business owners know if the people are from the shelter or from the other hotel," he said.
Tanner said that, as far as he knows, there has never been one complaint filed with the police against the Golden Rule Mission.
However, Helper Police Chief Trent Anderson said that's not quite accurate.
Anderson indicated that local police have gone several times to talk with residents as well as staff at the mission and that there had been complaints from business owners about people congregating on corners while smoking.
The mood at the March 20 meeting was one of frustration and confusion as councilmembers questioned why Helper has to house the shelter.
"Helper's shouldered our share of the burden for a very long time," pointed out Councilman Dean Armstrong. "I'm really, really disturbed about what I am hearing from our Main Street businesses. It's coming to a head."
With the transition of the building's ownership to La Porte, the matter does appear to be coming to a head.
However, in the interim ,administration of the facility has undergone some changes that may have added to the alleged problems.
The long-time director of the Golden Rule Mission, Barbara Dougherty, resigned in January.Tanner, who has played a hands on role, was hospitalized and an interim director, Joanie Westbrook, took over at the helm.
Westbrook was forthcoming about her struggles to keep a tight reign on the mission. She said she had to throw out some residents she caught with drugs and also found out some residents were sneaking beer in through the back of the building.
However, Westbrook said she sees a beacon of light in Logue and La Porte and the changes that will be wrought.
Lloyd Pendleton from the governor's task force on homelessness agreed with Westbrook and Tanner about Logue.
"He (Logue) is an experienced developer," said Pendleton in a phone interview March 21. "I've seen several of his properties here in Salt Lake and they are very well managed."
He and his colleagues at the division of housing expressed high hopes for the transition of the Golden Rule to both a long-term transitional and emergency housing center.
The members of the city council moved to contact La Porte and have Logue come to town to answer questions and quell concerns.
The Helper City Council meeting is at 6 p.m. tonight at the downtown auditorium.
For more information, local residents may call Jona Skerl at 472-5391.