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Posted: May 31, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Turner Lake shelter final OK delayed again

Once again, the Garden of Gethsemane homeless shelter on Turner Lake Circle is almost ready to open.

The fire marshal went to inspect the building again Friday afternoon in preparation to give the homeless shelter its Certificate of Occupancy, but the Rev. Clara Lett, director of Rainbow Covenant Ministries, said on Saturday that the shelter was only given a temporary CO for one of its three buildings.

Lett said that the fire marshal said each of the buildings on Turner Lake Circle needed two phone lines a piece to allow for proper monitoring of the building. Lett said the homeless shelter didn’t have enough money to afford the six separate phone lines, so she will call AT&T on Monday to see if they can offer her a discounted deal.

"This isn’t a place where money is coming in, it’s a place where people come and we give them services.
Financially, we just can’t afford six lines. We had two (phone) lines and a fax at the church and that cost us $276 a month. I can imagine what six lines would cost," Lett said.

Lett said the temporary CO is for the building at 7151 Turner lake Circle and will allow Good Hope Baptist Church to use the building to prepare food for the annual Summer Food Service Program for children, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program will start Tuesday.

However, the remaining homeless shelter buildings will have to remain vacant. Lett said the shelter has already spent all of its money to renovate the three buildings in order to get them up to code, so the shelter doesn’t have money for the phone lines. The Housing Authority hired a contractor to do the necessary repairs, but Lett said the contractor left before all of the necessary work was finished.

"The contractor pulled out and left us high and dry. Things were not completed and we’re in a mess now trying to get our CO," Lett said on Wednesday. "They just left and didn’t say anything. They didn’t even call to give us instructions on what was required for the building. We had to take full control. We almost drained our account buying materials and paint. We just don’t have any more money. We’re concerned now about regular bills. Our funds have dried up with the economy, so we’re concerned about all of that."

Housing Authority Attorney Jim Alexander did not return repeated messages left for him last week.

Lett said the Serving Hands construction ministry of Eastridge Community Church, stepped in and took over the renovations two weeks ago. She said the ministry has painted, done plumbing and electrical work, put grip bars in the bathrooms, replaced numerous lights and ballast bulbs, called the appropriate people to have the fire alarm system installed and called to have the proper inspections from the health and city building inspectors.

Lett said Mayer Electric Supply in Conyers donated 15 emergency battery operated lights and a member of the shelter’s board of directors donated more than $2,000 to be used to buy supplies from Home Depot. Lett said even though most of the renovations are completed, the shelter used so much of its own money that it still needs more than $5,000 to finalize everything and get the shelter up and running. However, the shelter is already fully furnished.

Interim Planning and Zoning Director Randy Vinson said the city building inspector gave the shelter a CO last week, with the condition that the appropriate smoke detectors be installed. Because of that, Lett had hoped to receive the final CO from the fire marshal Friday, but the phone line expense has pushed back the timetable once again.

The city of Covington purchased the building back in September 2007, but numerous delays have continually pushed back the opening of the shelter. For now the shelter location in Porterdale remains open.

Once the shelter in Covington is opened, it will house 80 people. Men and women will live in separate buildings and the shelter will provide parenting classes, construction classes and other job training, lessons on how to receive social security and disability claims, computer and literacy training and three meals a day.

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