Feeling the pinch from a loss of funding, the Salvation Army has begun charging people for extended stays in its Ashland emergency shelter.
Effective Monday the organization instituted a fee of $10 a night for stays longer than a week. The first week is still free, said Maj. Darrell Kingsbury, commander of the Ashland Citadel.
Kingsbury said the Salvation Army was reeling from the loss of a reimbursement grant through which it received up to $70,000 a year, as well as other smaller grants, along with a decline in donations because of the still-struggling economy. It costs the organization roughly $10,000 a month to operate the shelter, he said.
While Kingsbury said the Salvation Army was reluctant to implement a fee for using the shelter, he also noted the policy wasn’t anything new or unusual.
“I’ve been with the Salvation Army for 40 years, and for at least the past 20, everywhere I’ve been, they’ve charged,” he said.
Kingsbury said shelter residents were informed several weeks ago of the impending change. He also said the residents had been understanding about the situation.
Each resident meets twice a week with a caseworker whose primary objective is to get him or her into permanent housing, Kingsbury said. In hardship cases, such as when a resident has just gotten a job, but won’t get a check for a couple of weeks, the caseworker has the authority to work out payment arrangements with that person, he said.
One of the positive aspects of the fee is it provides residents with “a little more motivation to get out on their own,” Kingsbury said. Also, if people have to invest a little something in the shelter, they’re more inclined to take better care of the property, he said.
The average stay at the shelter is 2 1⁄2 weeks to four weeks, Kingsbury said. Most of those who use the facility are people who have found themselves temporarily displaced because of a fire, eviction or job loss, he said.
As is the case with many other relief agencies, the Salvation Army is dealing with a cut in funding at a time when demand for its services is as high as it’s ever been in recent years. The emergency shelter has a capacity of 30, “and there are nights we have to put out cots and pallets for people to sleep on,” Kingsbury said.
In addition to implementing the shelter fee, Kingsbury said the Salvation Army has taken steps to cut expenses, one being having local churches provide meals. But, he said the organization still needs money to keep its bills paid and had no choice but to start charging to make ends meet.
Kingsbury said the Salvation Army was also implementing educational programs to help improve clients’ chances of success once they’re living on their own, teaching them skills like budgeting, as well as how to be good tenants.
“A lot of these folks have some bad history, and they’ve got to overcome that,” he said.
Kingsbury also said the Salvation Army was extremely grateful to the donors who continue to support it financially even during difficult economic times.
“The fact that they do that really says a lot,” he said.
Donations to the Salvation Army can be made by calling (606) 324-5751.
KENNETH HART can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2654.