County, city search for shelter funds

A single mother with three young children will not have a place to sleep tonight.

This mother cannot afford to pay the monthly rent at the apartment complex where she has been living. When her children get out of school, they will have no place to call home. Her only option is to seek help from local non-profit agencies.

Tonia Casey, director of Needline, a local food bank, said being faced with situations like this is just another day at the office for her.

Casey’s options and resources are limited since there is no full-time, obligation free homeless shelter in Murray. She can either send the family to a shelter in one of the surrounding counties or have them stay at a hotel for a few days. Both options can be costly.

Since January, Casey has received 28 requests for help with housing from people who are either considered homeless or will be homeless without the non-profits help.

“That is a large number of homeless people,” Casey said. “We used to think five was a lot.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in Calloway County, 21.8 percent of people live below the poverty rate and Casey said that number continues to grow.

Casey said it could be easy to over look this issue because Murray does not have an obvious homeless need, but it is there.

In order to help this problem, the Calloway United Benevolent Service (CUBS) started a homeless task force in 2011 to address the need for a homeless shelter in Murray.

The task force has been researching and discussing how the idea for a shelter can become a reality.

Casey said, as a member of the task force, she wants to see more analysis done before she will support the development of a shelter in Murray.

She said extending the time it takes to build a shelter is not going to help the homeless issue anytime soon, but she wants the committee to examine every possibility.

Casey said the committee would work to make sure the shelter would benefit the needs of the local homeless.

“If we build something like that, then we would want to prioritize who would be allowed to stay there,” she said.

Casey said in addition to the shelter she would like to see an expansion of the resources available now, such as Needline and the Gentry House local emergency shelters for families in Calloway County.

John Dale, evangelist at Glendale Road Church of Christ and head of the homeless task force, said the committee is meant to help those who want to help themselves.

He said the plans for the shelter would include extra space where Graduated Education Degree classes could be held as well as money management classes.

There are people in Murray who are in need of help, but the resources are not available to them, Dale said. He said a change must occur for the homeless people in Murray.

“These are people not numbers,” Dale said. “You have to start somewhere.”

He said there is a possible location for the shelter near Nash Drive in Murray. The shelter would be located near the housing office for the city of Murray and the Gentry House shelter.

Dale said with the zoned land being near the Gentry House most people should not have to worry about the shelter being to close to their homes.

Funding a homeless shelter in Murray would be an issue, though he said the task force has been discussing different funding options, including establishing some kind of foundation for the shelter and fundraisers.

“We are in the early stages,” Dale said. “But, I feel like we have the support of city council and the mayor.”

He said members of the task force hope to have the drawings for the shelter finished by early winter.

Donna Herndon, board chair for CUBS, said Murray does have a center at St. John’s Episcopal Church, which was used as a warming center during the winter and as a cooling center during the summer.

It has not been able to keep its doors open consistently due to a lack of volunteers.

She said in the city schools there are 51 identified homeless students alone.

“We have homeless people in Murray,” Herndon said. “That’s indeed a reality. If we are Christian people and care about our fellow man, I believe we have a responsibility to provide because the cost of living is high.”