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Front Page » April 2, 2002 » Local News » County housing authority assumes helm, board appointed to...
Published 4,936 days ago

County housing authority assumes helm, board appointed to oversee Helper mission

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Staff reporter

Colleen Robertson, director of the The Golden Rule Mission, gave the board of directors a tour of the facility last Wednesday after the board meeting. The mission recently came under control of the Carbon County Housing Authority and much of the building has been renovated. The new board of directors met for the first time last week, setting up by laws, rules for residents and voting to establish a management agreement with the housing authority.

The first meeting of the board of directors for Golden Rule Mission and Store was punctuated by discussion about whether the facility should let obviously inebriated individuals stay at the site on Main Street in Helper.

The facility, formerly known as the Union Gospel Mission, is now under new management and leadership. The recently renamed institution is being run by the Carbon County Housing Authority and the agency set up a board of directors, which had its first meeting at the Helper public safety building last week.

The first board consists of five members. The members include Nancy Boswell of the United Methodist Church, Kathy Morris of the housing authority and George Zamantakis, the Helper police chief.

Also present was Helper Mayor Joe Bonacci, who attended in place of Helper Councilman Kim Spradling who was unable to attend the first meeting.

The fifth board member's spot is presently vacant because the person selected to fill the position decided she couldn't fulfill the obligations.

The debate regarding people who are under the influence arose during the adoption of rules for the mission. As the rules were discussed, Morris brought up her concerns about the mission's guidelines on the matter.

"I am worried about keeping people out of the mission because they are drunk," stated Morris. "They need a place to stay, too, especially when it is cold."

Zamantakis, who had been elected chair of the board earlier in the meeting responded to her concern.

"We just had some problems with people being drunk and disorderly before," Zamantakis explained to the board.

"Well if it's 15 degrees outside and they need a place to go where do they go? To jail?"

"If they are not a danger to themselves or others we don't take them to jail," replied the chief of the city's police department.

One of the resident administrators then told the group that they generally only keep people out if the are really drunk. But then the question arose as to who determines their state of soberness.

"There's a fine line," said Colleen Robertson, the mission director. "It depends on whether it is a one time thing or something we have to deal with every day."

Linda Varner, the administrator over the housing authority, and who was attending the meeting because it was the first one, thought there was some good middle ground in the discussion.

"If the person presents an altered state when they come in I think the mission could call the police and then an officer can advise those in charge what to do," she said. "If we take them in we wouldn't kick them out early in the morning either."

Morris suggested maybe a breathalizer test could be a good way to check for drunkeness, but Zamantakis seemed to think it could be more simple than that.

"I think if they are having a problem with someone they should just call us," he said. "But we don't want drinking problems to be associated with the mission. We need this facility to be a positive to the community."

It was finally decided that the rules would be adopted with the side note that the board would look at developing a definitive policy on how to handle those who present themselves for lodging who are drunk.

The board also did the following.

•They adopted bylaws and articles of incorporation.

•They approved a management contract with the housing authority. The cost of that amounts to $5000 per year.

•They approved personnel policies that would pertain to any employees that may be hired for the mission in the future. Presently the mission has no paid employees, only a volunteer director and assistant director who live in the mission.

•Reviewed the goals for the upcoming year.

•Had a discussion about whom the mission was really for. It was brought out that for many individuals who stay at the site, the mission acts as a kind of travelers aid type of outlet. Many people only stay one night.

The individuals who stay more than five days are expected to perform volunteer work and become part of the staff to support the assistance provided at the facility.

"If they don't do the chores we assign them at that point then they are out," said Robertson.

•Another discussion ensued concerning finances.

Some of the board members wanted to know the state of affairs and where the money to support the mission came from.

According to Varner, a significant amount of the money to fund the mission's operations comes from grants.

The largest grant is renewed annually at the end of June. In addition, the thrift store brings in $25to $40 per day.

The mission also conducts a bell ringing fundraiser at donation pots during the holidays, which brought in about $4,000 last year.

• The importance of the mission to the community was also discussed.

"One of the most important parts of the mission is the food kitchen there," pointed out Varner. "There are a lot of people who live in the community who don't live in the mission who need that kitchen. They are not in a position financially to feed themselves regularly. "

"The kitchen serves those who are hungry regardless of where they stay. For instance in November of last year the kitchen served 1,180 people. It averages about 1,000 meals per month," added Varner.

At the present, the kitchen is operating in a state of remodeling with no stove. Cold meals are presently being served while the kitchen is being renovated.

•The board will have meetings quarterly. This next year meetings will be held around May 30, July 31 and Sept. 26.

The board meeting ended with a tour of the renovated mission rooms, lobby and the kitchen that is still being remodeled.

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