MOUNT VERNON — Options are currently being pursued in securing a location for a Winter Sanctuary, used to provide housing for homeless women and children in Knox County. Men are currently provided shelter at the St. Paul’s Parish House on High Street.
A space for women and children is being sought as they are currently being provided temporary housing at the Curtis Hotel.
A location for a Winter Sanctuary was recently proposed by Mark Ramser who agreed to donate a structure which had been used as a garage for the former Grohe Funeral Home on North Main Street.
“We were grateful for the offer,” said the Rev. Denise Marikis, president of the Winter Sanctuary board of directors, in a recent press release. “But an analysis of the property determined that it could not be effectively utilized for our intended purposes. We were sorry to have to decline such a generous opportunity.”
The Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County had earlier awarded a $15,000 grant to be used for the renovation of this structure, with estimates stating the total cost to renovate the structure could be as high as $240,000.
“My understanding is that particular building was not going to be a cost-effective solution. If there is a viable option for using the grant on another structure to create The Sanctuary, then we’re going to be very supportive,” said Sam Barone, executive director of the Community Foundation. “We are in no way less diminished in our support for the mission. We are enthusiastic about it, in fact, and we certainly hope they can find a building. And if they can, our board may be very willing to let them apply that to another place just as they were to this.”
“It was determined that that particular space would not work for us, and we did notify the Community Foundation of that,” said Jeff Spear, member of the Winter Sanctuary board of directors, citing reasons of size restrictions and extensive renovations required with this particular structure.
“The Community Foundation money is still being set aside. It’s not like it’s being used for another purpose,” said Spear, who added that these funds could be refunded if it’s what the Foundation wished. “But we all want to have a facility dedicated for this particular purpose in Mount Vernon.”
Finding a proper facility for The Winter Sanctuary can be difficult, according to Spear. Zoning restrictions, size restrictions and being able to abide by possible strict building codes are obstacles that must be cleared. “We’re still trying to find a facility. We have been looking around, and another we have is to take a piece of property and build on it exactly what we want. But until we get this facility all nailed down, we’re not going to spend any of the money that has been raised for this project yet.”
At the current time, St. Paul’s Paris house will continue to offer housing for men. A temporary shelter is currently being sought to house women and children until a permanent location is found.
Meetings are being scheduled to discuss further options for the Winter Sanctuary facility.
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