Saturday, June 02, 2001

Mount Airy shelter to stay open

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Pending budget cuts by the Hamilton County Department of Human Services will not close the Mount Airy homeless shelter, according to the agency's assistant director.

        But Alicia Beck, executive director for the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, said the cuts could alter the way the shelter does business.

        The county contributes about $200,000 to the shelter every year. That money is part of about 40 items Human Services officials will give to Hamilton County commissioners next week to consider cutting.

        Human Services has to cut about $30 million from its budget beginning this year.

        Ms. Beck said the shelter serves about 700 men each year, many of them veterans. She said the county has a responsibility to serve the homeless. It is the only county-run homeless shelter.

        “DHS and the county need to understand that Mount Airy must remain a county-run shelter because of their responsibility to all Hamilton County citizens,” Ms. Beck said. “To close it demonstrates an unwillingness to be accountable to all county residents.”

        Lora Jollis, Human Services assistant director, said the shelter won't close. But the county might sell it to a nonprofit organization, she said.

        Ms. Jollis would not disclose any of the organizations that have expressed interest in the shelter.

        “Mount Airy is vitally important,” Ms. Jollis said. “We have a strong interest and commitment in keeping it alive. It's just a question of how to administer it and who administers it.”

        A change of ownership could force unwelcome changes on the shelter, Ms. Beck said.

        “Currently, Mount Airy is a really great entry point to access a variety of services, for substance addiction to veterans services to physically disabled,” Ms. Beck said. “We're afraid that might not be retained.”

        City inspectors are checking the shelter for structural soundness.


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