As the director of Shelter Services, I've been fortunate to make many wonderful and lasting memories while working with this organization. Many are humorous and heartwarming, but I have to be honest and say that last summer, when the bed bugs invaded, it was far from pleasant. However, I can't help but smile when I think back on that time because the community really came forward, volunteering many hours of labor and assisting with financial support to save us.
We had to replace our beds, mattresses, carpet, curtains, and linens. The wallpaper was taken off, wood trim was removed and floors refinished. This was a huge project for the shelter and, without community and church support, we would never have been able to do it.
We have since purchased new beds and mattresses, and window treatments were completed by a local pastor's wife. I am happy to report that, once again, our homeless shelter looks more like a bed and breakfast than a shelter. Over the last year, from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013, we housed 84 females and 157 males, with 241 of those individuals from Mifflin or Juniata counties.
I often say there are times when coming to the shelter is the best thing an individual can do. This is because we have so much to offer in collaboration with other agencies. We offer a payee service which helps 84 individuals. We offer PATH, the Project to Assist in Transition from Homelessness. We also collaborate with the Juniata Valley Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities program to offer Master Leasing, a program that helps those with mental health issues find and secure housing. All of these programs are an added layer of support for individuals needing that something "extra."
Shelter Services continues to be busy and we are always looking for ways to help our neighbors, many of which already are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. We have received a minor grant to renovate three properties that we now own: 217 E. Third St., Lewistown; a mobile home at 21 Depot St., Lewistown; and 19 N. Third St. in Mifflintown.
The grant calls for nine units to provide permanent housing for people who have been chronically homeless, defined as having been homeless at least three different times. We plan to fill these units as soon as they open. We continue to look for volunteers, materials and financial support to complete these projects.
Those of you who know me know I am very passionate about what Shelter Services does. I believe that everyone should have a decent place to live. I believe we have an obligation to help when and where we can. I know the community will come forward again to assist in completing this project, and nine individuals will be permanently housed. Shelter Services Inc. has a dedicated staff of 15, but financial assistance is always needed. My goal has been to make sure that Shelter Service is financially sound. This is my prayer. Please know this shelter belongs to the community. We ask that readers keep Shelter Services Inc., the staff and residents in their prayers and make time to visit with us.
Wilda Fisher is the director of Shelter Services Inc.