Work on Shelter of Hope building stalls

Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Chaplain Terry Wildman discusses the renovation progress Monday at the Shelter of Hope, 320 S. Sprigg St. in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

The building intended to hold the Shelter of Hope homeless shelter at 320 S. Sprigg St. has two-by-four wall frames in place and plumbing issues fixed, but other work has stalled because of escalating costs and organizational concerns.

Plans for Shelter of Hope were announced at the building in February, and at that time Chaplain Terry Wildman, trained in homeless ministry, said he hoped to begin housing people there within a month. But Cape Girardeau building codes require sprinklers as part of the renovation, doubling the original $35,000 estimate.

Fundraising, which got off to a strong start, has slowed and the shelter bank account now holds about $15,000, Wildman said. The contractor who will oversee the work has asked for $30,000 to begin work, he said.

That extra cost and the organizational concerns gave pause to a group of business and civic leaders planning to raise the necessary funds, said banker Jay Knudtson, a former Cape Girardeau mayor who is helping lead the effort.

"There were things that needed to happen before I can become personally invested and before I can go out and ask someone for a sizable donation," Knudtson said.

Before the sprinkler requirement was clear, Knudtson said, he could have raised about $20,000 easily.

"The fundraising effort has taken on a whole different scope," he said. "... They clearly have to be more accountable and strategic in their thinking."

But the delays haven't prevented Wildman and volunteers he has recruited from trying to help find shelter and permanent housing for people in need. Working from a storefront at 733 Broadway, Shelter of Hope provides meals and clothing on a daily basis to those who need them. And with assistance from organizations like Love INC of Southeast Missouri and the Community Caring Council, he said, Shelter of Hope has helped 29 people find jobs and homes.

Currently, he said, the shelter is providing overnight lodging to eight men and several families, including a woman and her five children who were found sleeping in a van and two couples going through pregnancies. The men are taken each evening to the Amazing Grace Worship Center in Gordonville and the families are housed with volunteers, Wildman said.

In recent weeks, the need has become even more pronounced, Wildman said. The seven-week pause in long-term unemployment benefits that ended with congressional action last week has cost several area people their homes, he said.

"The landlords weren't going to wait on a bill that may not happen," Wildman said.

The storefront houses a thrift store, which generates some operating money, Wildman said. But it isn't enough to cover needed expenses like women's hygiene products or diapers, which Wildman said he is covering from personal funds. He said the shelter needs donors to support operations as well as building plans.

"We are the last hope, and I don't know how long I can keep going," he said.

The organizational issues are being sorted out, said the Rev. Bob Towner, Shelter of Hope board member and pastor of Christ Episcopal Church. When it was first created, the shelter was affiliated with the Texas ministry that trained Wildman and the board lacked people with business experience, both of which gave pause to big donors, Towner said.

New incorporation documents will be filed soon, Towner said, and new board members are being recruited with legal, insurance, banking and accounting -- all concerns raised by Knudtson in an interview -- to help reassure donors.

"The good news is that it is up and running and doing exactly what we were hoping it would do," Towner said. "It is not the most efficient way, and we would much rather put them up in a dormitory and minister with them there."

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent addresses:

733 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

320 S. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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