Shelter troubles could force out residents

Photo of several homeless residents at the Conroe New Birth Outreach Ministries shelter during worship time. The shelter is trying to correct several fire code violations before it's forced to ask some residents to leave.
November 16, 2011 3:32:51 PM PST
A shelter in Conroe could be forced to turn away some homeless if they don't make extensive changes to their facility.

The workers at this shelter say they know safety is a priority. But right now, they say they just don't have the resources to immediately correct all the violations.

They are a group of homeless people, singing through life's circumstances. Shelter residents like Laurie Thomas say they've come to Conroe's New Birth Ministries Outreach for a brand new start.

"I didn't accept myself, with who I had been," she said. "I didn't like who I had become."

But behind the scenes at this homeless shelter the staff tells me it's struggling to correct some serious fire code violations.

Denise Smith-Hart, administrator for New Birth Outreach Ministries explained, "Since we do operate and we do cook here, it has to have a vent."

Smith-Hart and Pastor Charles Hart say Conroe's fire marshal just cited the shelter for failing to have a sprinkler system, fire alarm and hood over the stove. The fire marshal says it's a safety concern since 15 women and men are staying in the shelter's dorms.

"Don't get me wrong, safety is the most important thing," said Smith-Hart. "I'm not fighting the situation. I understand the situation. It's just that we just don't have the funds to do it."

The Harts say contractors estimate correcting the violations could cost at least $20,000, unless the shelter limits the number of people staying there to five.

"It's the winter time, it's the holiday," Smith-Hart said. "These people have been through hell and who am I to just turn them back out into the streets."

The fire marshal says his office is trying to be flexible and working with the shelter. Meanwhile residents like Thomas say the place is making a difference.

I can tell you an anonymous community member has stepped up, offering to help the shelter address some of its issues. The administrators are scheduled to meet with the fire marshal soon.


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