View Mobile Site
 
Posted: February 5, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Shelter finally signs lease with housing authority

Council approves setting up utility deposit payment plan

The Garden of Gethsemane homeless shelter has been open in Covington since June, but it finally signed a lease last week.

The Covington Housing Authority owns the three homeless shelter buildings, and shelter Director Rev. Clara Lett said she had been trying to obtain an official lease for a while.

The delay has actually prevented the shelter from receiving some grants. In previous years, while in Porterdale, Lett said the shelter had a $45,000 Re-Entry Partnership Housing grant from the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. Without proof of a signed lease, the shelter did not qualify for this and other state grants.

Lett said that the authority had delivered a blank lease earlier but had not included any written terms. Jim Alexander, the lawyer for the Covington Housing Authority, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The lack of grants adds to the financial struggles that all non-profits are experiencing. As a result, Lett came before the Covington City Council and asked them to waive a $5,000 utility deposit.

With the newly signed lease, Lett was then able to open a utilities account in the shelter’s name, whereas before it had been in the authority’s name. However, when a new account is opened, the city asks for a deposit, equal to one month’s utilities.

City Clerk Tonya Grier said the shelter has 11 separate utility accounts that add up to a monthly cost of around $4,000, and when combined with information from a credit check, the deposit was set at $5,000.

Lett said Thursday the newly signed lease called for $3,000 monthly payments. Part of this cost includes the shelter reimbursing the authority for the utility payments made since last July. When added to the $4,000 to $5,000 in monthly utility costs, the shelter couldn’t afford a large deposit, she said.

"And the idea is to give a waiver because you’re the homeless shelter?" Mayor Kim Carter asked Monday night.

"No, because we don’t have $5,000," Lett responded.

Carter said she understood the economy was hurting non-profits, but she said the city had to follow its policy, otherwise any organization could legitimately ask for a waiver.

Councilwoman Janet Goodman suggested the shelter set up a payment plan, and Grier said six month plans had been set up in the past.

Carter asked if a six-month plan would be doable for the shelter, but when Lett expressed uncertainty, Goodman suggested extending the plan to a full year, to give Lett time to get the shelter on its feet.

Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams said she because the city had already invested so much money in the shelter, more than $1 million to buy the buildings, it shouldn’t turn its back because of a $5,000 deposit. She also expressed disappointment at continued anti-shelter sentiment in the city.

Carter continued to caution that allowing a year-long lease was setting a precedent, but Goodman said the homeless shelter was unlike any other organizations in Covington, because of its unique function.

Councilwoman Ocie Franklin suggested cutting down the utility payment, because even an additional $416 a month still put the shelter in a dilemma.

Councilman Chris Smith also expressed concern that the shelter wouldn’t be able to make its payments and worried the city would end up absorbing those costs, but Williams said the council shouldn’t assume that would happen.

With the lease in place, Lett said Thursday she will be able to apply for the $45,000 housing grant and others soon.

City Attorney Ed Crudup suggested Monday that the city could put the utility payments on an ascending schedule, starting at $100 for the first month, with each successive payment increasing by $100. This schedule would pay off the debt within 10 months.

The council approved that payment plan by a 4-2 vote, with Smith and Councilman Keith Dalton opposing. 

Carter said she understood the economy was hurting non-profits, but she said the city had to follow its policy, otherwise any organization could legitimately ask for a waiver.

Councilwoman Janet Goodman suggested the shelter set up a payment plan, and Grier said six-month plans had been set up in the past.

Carter asked if a six-month plan would be doable for the shelter, but when Lett expressed uncertainty, Goodman suggested extending the plan to a full year, to give Lett time to get the shelter on its feet.

Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams said because the city had already invested so much money in the shelter, more than $1 million to buy the buildings, it shouldn’t turn its back because of a $5,000 deposit. She also expressed disappointment at continued anti-shelter sentiment in the city.

Carter continued to caution that allowing a year-long payment plan was setting a precedent, but Goodman said the homeless shelter was unlike any other organizations in Covington, because of its unique function.

Councilwoman Ocie Franklin suggested cutting down the utility payment, because even an additional $416 a month still put the shelter in a dilemma.

Councilman Chris Smith also expressed concern that the shelter wouldn’t be able to make its payments and worried the city would end up absorbing those costs, but Williams said the council shouldn’t assume that would happen.

With the lease in place, Lett said Thursday she will be able to apply for the $45,000 housing grant and others soon.

City Attorney Ed Crudup suggested Monday that the city could put the utility payments on an ascending schedule, starting at $100 for the first month, with each successive payment increasing by $100. This schedule would pay off the debt within 10 months.

The council approved that payment plan by a 4-2 vote, with Smith and Councilman Keith Dalton opposing.

Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...