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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Pastor proposes turning nursing home into homeless shelter

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

A Pleasanton pastor on Monday presented a plan to turn the former Prescott Country View building into a homeless shelter. (Journal file photo)

By Charlene Sims,

MOUND CITY – On Monday, Oct. 23, Wade Booth, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Pleasanton addressed the Linn County Commission about the lack of housing for homeless people in Linn County.

Booth said that Jesse Willard had approached him a couple of months ago about developing a ministry in the old Prescott Manor Building. Booth said he immediately agreed, then starting praying about it, began talking to people, and finally began looking into homelessness in Linn County.

“We will probably have an explosion here in our county in about two years with homelessness,” Booth predicted. “Kansas does have a problem with homelessness.”

Booth submitted 2019 information to the commissioners about homelessness in Kansas and it showed there were 2,381 people homeless in 2019.

Researching this out, he said he looked to find out what was going on in Linn County. He said he found a paper associating homelessness with poverty.

Booth told the commissioners that the poverty level in Kansas in 2019 was 11.7 per cent and in Linn County it was 11.8 per cent.

Booth said he had been talking to people at My Father’s House, a homeless shelter in Paola.

“When they began their ministry 17 years ago, they presented it to HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development),” he said. “There’s a lot of resources out there. And what we are going to try to do is set up a homeless shelter, a transitional home, for a two-year program.”

Booth said that he had talked with Southeastern Technical Academy for Rural Students (STARS) Director Jay Allen who told him if the people were truly homeless, they would be able to enroll in the STARS program in Pleasanton and get an education to get a higher paying job.

Booth went on to explain that, because of the increase in real estate prices, many landlords who had been renting to low-income people have been selling their rental properties. He said this presents a greater problem with housing lower income people.

“What we are presenting and I am asking you to help us with, we need finances to get the building into code. I don’t know if there is a code, but there are things that need to be done to the building,” said Booth. “Actually our church is not able to handle that.”

Booth told the commissioners that he understood that they had a fund that could possibly help in that manner to get the building open, usable, maybe just enough to get the doors open. Once the doors are open, this thing will take off, he said.

He estimated it would cost $50,000 to $100,000 to just get the doors open.

Booth said he was involved in developing a five-step program that the church would like to present the homeless that is life skills classes where people learn to do their dishes, wash your clothes and all those things.

He said he would also like to provide spiritual guidance for them as well.

“Most homeless people are discouraged, defeated, and this is what the spiritual matter would be in their lives,” said Booth. “Also job training, which would involve the STARS program, receiving medical assistance, and we’ve already talked to the clinic there in town, and they would be glad to take people in and get them necessary medical benefits.”

Booth challenged the commissioners to help with their fund. He asked if the commission could match the funds he raises or if there is any possibility that the county could help with a lump sum.

“I am dedicating myself, and our church (members) are dedicating themselves,” said Booth. “We know that this is not an instant process and that it is going to take time to get the doors open.”

It would probably be May 2024 before the church could get the doors open, making sure that the facilities are safe and secure, said Booth.

Booth again explained that there was no help for the homeless in this community or there is no help for the homeless in a neighboring county to the south. The closest homeless shelter is in Paola. Johnson County has the City Union Mission downtown.

He said he could not find information on the number of homeless in Linn County but did find information on Linn County, Mich., which was a similar size county with 10,000 in the population. Between 2016 and 2019, their homeless population went from 33 to 132 homeless in those three years.

So in our county alone, there could be up to 300 homeless, Booth said. People may not see them on the corners of the streets, Booth said, but since he has been working on this, he has met three, said Booth.

While the commissioners had no questions after Booth left the podium, Commission Chair Danny McCullough thanked Booth for coming and letting the commission know what he was working on. He said he did not know what the commission would do moving forward, but he said if there was a business plan, Booth could give it County Clerk David Lamb to hand out to the commissioners. Commissioner Jason Hightower thanked him for coming.

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