[Hpn] Las Vegas, NV - MASH and the homeless' future hanging in the balance - LAS VEGAS SUN - August 7, 2002

Editor Editor <hccjr@bellsouth.net>
Wed, 07 Aug 2002 20:23:22 -0500


MASH future hanging in the balance 

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By Timothy Pratt - LAS VEGAS SUN - August 7, 2002

Less than two months before it loses its director of the past
seven years, the downtown shelter originally designed to help
many of the Las Vegas Valley's homeless faces an uncertain
future.

As of Sept. 30, San Diego-based Father Joe's Villages will be
pulling out of the MASH Village shelter due to lack of funds, a
move announced in March.

And although the city of Las Vegas -- which owns the shelter --
closed a search last month for someone to take over the site,
many questions remain about who will step in and under what
terms.

The result, people close to the process say, is that the city's
homeless could lose services -- at least temporarily -- come
October.

Issues the city must resolve include repairs to one of the two
buildings on the site, both to fix structural damages and to get
rid of possibly dangerous mold.

Then there is the question of whether the city will accept an
offer made by Catholic Charities to take over a program run out
of the other building. The city had been seeking someone to run
programs at both.

Also to be determined is who will pay the bills, since the city
has made clear it has no money for the shelter -- and Catholic
Charities has said the same.

"If we could have gotten this done tomorrow, we would have, but
it's been impossible," Betsy Fretwell, deputy city manager, said.

The bottom line is whether the city can get its to-do list taken
care of by Oct. 1.

"I'm not sure if one month is going to be enough time to solve
all these problems ... and not interrupt the services," said
Shawna Parker, analyst for Clark County community resources
management. 

Parker will be meeting with the city and officials from other 
jurisdictions that work with the homeless to brainstorm on 
the issue Aug. 22.

Fretwell said two studies done on the building used to house
families -- the largest such program in the valley -- produced a
series of recommendations.

The first recommendation was to do another study.

The further study would determine what problems exist with the
building's foundation, which has cracks and is sinking -- and
what must be done to solve them. Afterward, work must be done to
fix a series of additional problems, including leaks, and to get
rid of mold.

So far the studies have cost $13,458 with more work to be done.
The work on the foundation may cost at least $150,000 and the
rest of the work still has no price tag, Fretwell said.

Father Joe Carroll, director of Father Joe's Villages, said the
total cost for work on the building may run into the millions of
dollars. The original cost of the building was $2.5 million, he
said.

The city says Carroll may be responsible for fixing some of the
problems linked to mold; Carroll said the ball is in the city's
court.

Asked if the issues tied to the building will be resolved in time
for families to make use of the services by Oct.1, Fretwell said,
"it looks tight."

There's also the related question of who would administer the
services to as many as 300 people, since Catholic Charities
offered to run only the shelter's Crisis Intervention Center, a
one-stop clearinghouse for dozens of social service agencies.

Fretwell said she hopes the nonprofit will show interest in
taking on the second program. She said the city currently has no
other takers.

Also at issue is who would pay for Catholic Charities to provide
services if both the city and the nonprofit say they don't have
the money.

Faye Johnson, neighborhood development manager for the city and
the lead person in the search for someone to step in by Oct. 1,
said that some of the federal funds Father Joe's Villages
received for the current year may be left over.

But Carroll has said he does not think this will happen.

"I really don't think there will be any money left at that
point," he said Tuesday.

As for whether the city would reconsider its position on picking
up the tab, Fretwell pointed out that the city stopped channeling
funds to the shelter a year ago, and only the City Council could
change this decision.

Meanwhile, the prospect of next month reaching an end with
hundreds of homeless having one less place to turn to has a
veteran observer dismayed.

"It's a shame that, after years of countless meetings and
different administrations, we seem to be back where we started,"
said Linda Lera-Randle El, who served as interim director for
MASH Village in 1994, shortly after it opened.

"If we lose these services now, the homeless situation will be
more extreme than it has been in the last 18 months or so, and
this will be felt in the streets."


Copyright 2002 Las Vegas SUN, Inc.
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