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Cooperative Ministry finds solution to shelter woes

BY LAUREL BLACK lblack@paducahsun.com

After three months of searching, Paducah Cooperative Ministry has found a solution to the impending closure of its homeless shelter.

The service for homeless single women and women with children will continue in the ministry's Fresh Start House for the short term, and plans are in the works to create what PCM Executive Director Heidi Suhrheinrich calls "a small village" on the ministry-owned property in the next 12 to 18 months.

"After exploring many options, we realized that the most practical solution was right in our backyard," Suhrheinrich said.

The shelter will not accept new residents during the month of September, but plans to reopen Oct. 1 in the Fresh Start House, a former Army Reserve building on North 12th Street. PCM acquired that property in 2012 to house its Fresh Start Program, which helps women who were incarcerated to transition back to society.

The Fresh Start House has eight beds, Suhrheinrich said, and will serve as an interim location while the board develops a plan for a Fresh Start Community, which could include six to eight four-bedroom houses on the Fresh Start property. Once off the ground, the community will provide residential services to homeless single women, women with children and women leaving incarceration.

"We're really excited about it. They'll be together in a safe, contained space that will be easily managed, clean and healthy," she said.

The ministry heard in May that the Paducah Housing Authority could no longer allow it to run a shelter out of its rental units - as it had for 24 years - and that residents would have to leave by Oct. 1.

PCM sought a $50,000 grant to support a new, permanent shelter from the McCracken County Fiscal Court in June. Suhrheinrich said the request did not receive a positive response, but that the nonprofit will use some funds it has in reserve to start the project on its own.

"That will allow us to show the community our good faith in getting started and using our own resources and being good stewards of those resources," she said.

Since the Housing Authority notified PCM of the closure, staff members have found permanent housing for all but three of the shelter's 21 residents, Suhrheinrich added.

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