Brown County Home Solutions, the nonprofit organization that is addressing homelessness in Brown County, hopes to open an inclement weather homeless shelter by early December, but it is scrambling for funds to make that possible.
Specifically, Brown County Home Solutions (BCHS) needs to figure out how to pay the $7,900 it will cost to have a fire alarm system installed, BCHS Executive Director Linda Heitman said.
The city fire marshal’s office is requiring wired smoke detectors throughout the former Avenue D Baptist Church building before BCHS can convert the second floor into an inclement weather shelter, Heitman said. The fire marshal’s office is requiring that the system be installed by a fire safety company, and BCHS received a bid from Inca-Trio Fire Services of Abilene for $9,000. The company agreed to donate $1,100 toward the cost, reducing BCHS’s total to $7,900, Heitman said.
Additionally, BCHS is being required to have emergency lighting and lighted exit signs installed in the building, to replace a second-floor double window with a single window and to install a metal landing and stairs outside the window.
Brown County’s budget for the 2019-’20 fiscal year includes a $10,000 allotment to BCHS for the year, but allotments such as the one to BCHS aren’t paid until January. That’s because the county doesn’t take in a lot of revenue until after the first of the year, commissioners said.
Heitman addressed commissioners court members Monday and said the auditor’s office had agreed to release $2,500 of those funds early. Heitman asked commissioners court members to consider releasing the entire amount early, but the court took no action.
“I know you all normally do the distributions in January but if we start in January, by the time we’re ready, the cold season’s going to be over,” Heitman told commissioners. “So I wanted to see if you all would consider releasing the full allotment.”
Commissioner Joel Kelton said, “things are done that way and they’e placed that way for a reason. I hate to make an exception, unless we positively had to.”
Heitman said she understands cash flow issues.
“This was just a setback — a disappointing setback. But I understand budgets,” Heitman said.
In an email to the Bulletin Tuesday morning, Heitman added, “although it is disappointing that I was not able to receive our full grant funding until January, we are grateful to the county for approving the dispersal of 25 percent of our grant. We will continue to work with the city, as well as our volunteers and sponsors, to continue work preparing the shelter rooms so that we will be able open as soon as possible.
“We will utilize the funds we have as efficiently as possible. I am continuing to look for additional sources of funds to be able to complete the upgrades to the building in preparation of opening this cold season as planned.”
Heitman said she’s not “ruling anything out” in terms of opening in early December as she hopes. “God can do wonderful things,” Heitman said.
But if it proves to be impossible to open in time for the upcoming cold season, BCHS will be “more than ready for next year,” Heitman said.
“Brownwood’s going to have an inclement weather homeless shelter at some point,” Heitman said. “I’ll do my very best to get it open this cold season, but money is the issue.”
Heitman briefly addressed the Brownwood City County Tuesday morning, thanking the council for the letter of support BCHS received from Mayor Stephen Haynes.
In September, Heitman asked the council for a letter of support. Heitman told council members then that BCHS has three programs:
• Community assistance in areas such as emergency rent and utilities. The goal is to keep those who are at risk for homelessness in their homes.
• Legacy Village, a community of “tiny homes” on the property of the former Avenue D Baptist Church that make up a transitional housing program, “designed to transition the homeless back into productive society,” Heitman told council members.
“It is a complete program, it’s not just housing. And there are criteria that they have to meet, there are requirements that they have to perform during their stay and it is for a limited amount of time.”
Four homes have been completed, and work is under way on a fifth home.
• Inclement weather shelter. Heitman said she checked with homeless shelters around the state and “everybody uses about the same criteria as far as triggers to open,” Heitman said.
She said those triggers are a forecast low of 32 degrees or colder and calm, or 35 or 36 degrees and below with wind or precipitation.
“It is just overnight shelter to give them a safe place to be so that they don’t freeze, then they leave the next morning,” Heitman told council members.