Pastor repeats case for county funding of homeless shelter
Updated: Nov 16
The pastor of the First Baptist Church of Pleasanton has approached Linn County commissioners a second time about helping fund a homeless shelter in the former Prescott Country View nursing home building. (Journal file photo)
By Charlene Sims, firstname.lastname@example.org
MOUND CITY – Wade Booth, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Pleasanton, returned to the Linn County Commission meeting on Monday, Nov. 13, to update the commissioners on what research he had done and the plans for the former Prescott Country View nursing home as a homeless shelter.
Commissioners have been approached by Jessy Williard several times over the past three years seeking funding to revive the building as a nursing home. Jessy Willard and Kadee Willard still own the property, according to county records.
Booth told the commissioners that he had a floor plan for opening up a mission in the former nursing home. He also wanted to tell them about the Kansas Legislature meeting last Thursday in a six-hour session to discuss homelessness in the state.
He said that the legislature had come up with two recommendations to allow cities and counties to draw money from the state for homeless shelters. One was the local ad valorem tax reduction (LAVTR) fund and the other was the PPPO program.
Under the LAVTR Fund, a portion of sales tax dollars collected by the state are supposed to be shared with city and county governments. The original purpose of that fund was to help cities and counties lower property taxes. Because this has not been done for nearly 20 years, the fund contains a large amount of money.
Booth said that the Kansas Coalition of Homeless and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) just tied their hands and would not let them do what they were trying to accomplish in the home.
Booth told the commissioners that Jay Allen, director of the Southeastern Technical Academy for Rural Students (STARS) program had said that individuals could attend the program and that the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas (CHC/SEK) clinic could help with getting medical assistance.
In a separate telephone interview, Allen said that on an individual case-by-case basis people could be assisted in getting set up with either working on a GED or possibly attending the STARS program classes that are funded by Fort Scott Community College. He said that people could apply for federal and state scholarships to assist with the $123 per credit-hour tuition fee.
Allen, who is a physician for CHC/SEK, said that people in that office would work with people to get them connected with programs and agencies that could get them assistance with health care costs and services.
“They can be put in contact with people that will get them back on their feet,” said Allen. He added that there is a cost for everything and part of that cost was the willingness to fill out a lot of paperwork.
“I’ll do what I can to help him,” said Allen.
At the meeting, Booth told the commissioners he was looking at a way to get mental health services for these people because a majority of them had mental health issues.
“We are trying to develop a program that will resolve these problems and these issues, so it will allow people to get back into homes,” said Booth.
Booth told the commissioners that the First Baptist Church has taken on Safe Harbor Missions as a mission project. They are dedicated to it to financing it at $50 per month and they will also take care of the first month’s billings and all the things that will keep it afloat each month when the doors are open.
At the commission meeting, Booth estimated it would take $10,000 to get the plumbing in working order in the building. He said this was the phase one.
“Then the rest is just going to fall in place,” said Booth. “I informed my church yesterday that when we open these doors we will need a person on the property 24/7 and I have volunteered to do that position. Therefore resigning my position as pastor of the First Baptist Church and taking responsibility for this mission.”
The second phase would be to clean up, paint and ready rooms with volunteer help, said Booth.
Booth explained that the north wing would be opened first and would be able to house 12 individuals there. He said that his wife was an excellent cook and would cook for the program.
Booth told the commissioners that they would start with a 90-day program as an entry time to see if these people are going to be serious about helping themselves get back into society and then they would move into 18-month or 24-month programs.
Booth challenged the commissioners to match the money that was raised for the program.
He said that homelessness will be a county problem and the reason we don’t see it on the surface is because people are doubled up in homes or sleeping at roadside parks.
He said that he had heard that cities often give bus tickets to people so they can go to a community where there is a shelter. He expressed concern that landlords selling rental properties and the state making laws to eliminate homeless camps will cause even more homelessness.
Booth said that he was looking at a cost of about $2,000 per month to operate the program. Phase three will be opening the other wing. This shelter could also be used as an emergency shelter for people in the winter.
The last phase, Booth said, was developing the five acres into a place to build permanent tiny home dwellings.