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Posted: June 7, 2009 12:30 a.m.

New homeless shelter opens after final inspections

Covington now has a homeless shelter as Rainbow Covenant Ministries received its final certificates of occupation for the three homeless shelter buildings at Turner Lake Circle.

Newton County Fire Marshal David Carter said the three buildings passed their final fire code inspection Thursday afternoon and can open as soon as Rev. Clara Lett, director of the Rainbow Covenant Ministries, is ready.

Employees from Rainbow Covenant Ministries were not able to be reached on Friday or Saturday, but Lett said earlier in the week that she was planning on moving homeless shelter residents from Porterdale to Covington in the next couple of weeks. Lett also said that earlier that she was in the process of signing a lease with the Covington Housing Authority.

She said the shelter 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 get social security and disability claims, computer and literacy training and three meals a day.

Mayor Kim Carter said the current economy makes local resources like the homeless shelter more important than ever.

"I think in this economic storm that we’re in, with double digit unemployment and roughly 1400 foreclosures, now more than ever it offers folks a ray of hope," Carter said. "Now more than ever the homeless shelter is needed. I’m glad Clara’s facility is about to open."

Thursday’s certificate of occupancy was the last step in the 18-month process, which started in Oct. 2007 when the City of Covington gave a $1.08 million grant to the housing authority to purchase the three buildings and renovate them for the Garden of Gethsemane homeless shelter.

The shelter had to move from Porterdale because of an unresolved zoning issue, although Porterdale agreed to let the shelter stay in the city until another residence was ready to open. Over that year and a half, the homeless shelter had numerous delays, including waiting for the Head Start program to move out of the purchased buildings and into other buildings, construction delays and monetary shortages.

Lett said earlier that she still needs about $5,000 to get everything at the shelter up and running. She said all of the furniture was previously provided by different donors, but she still needs money to set up some of the training classes and purchase some equipment. She said the building also needs more repairs, including new siding and some new doors on the back. Also the back of the building is rotting away on all three buildings, but those issues will likely have to be addressed in the future.

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