Local News

Future of Shelter to be Discussed

(La Porte, IN) - Whether homeless people in La Porte have a warm place to go during the winter could be decided after the New Year.


The all-volunteer run overnight shelter at Christ Church at U.S 35 and Jefferson Avenue closed last week.  It opened for the first time last year and operated throughout the winter.  After reopening December 1, the shelter closed three weeks later.


Center Township Trustee Lisa Pierzakowski said just four people showed up at the doors and the shelter would have been forced to close anyway on December 31 because of building code violations.


More than 40 people used the shelter last year.  Most of those individuals, with help from the trustee’s office, found new housing, employment and assistance for substance abuse, she said.


The shelter, which requires the homeless to seek help for getting back on their feet, cannot be established again at the church because the facility is not up to code for use as temporary housing.  Pierzakowski said she and other volunteer board members governing the shelter will meet sometime in January to begin discussing the next steps.  "We are still looking at other options,” she said.  Pierzakowski said one possibility is reopening the shelter in January at another site.


La Porte Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor said the biggest violation uncovered during an inspection was the century old building not having an automatic sprinkler system in the event of a fire.  “We don’t want to see someone get hurt when it’s not up to code,” he said.


Batchelor said lack of fire suppression for such a facility is a violation of state code.   A variance from the code was sought by the homeless shelter but state officials did not respond to the application for a variance.


He estimated the cost of installing an automatic sprinkler system at well over $100,000.


Pierzakowski said she expects demand for an overnight shelter to go up dramatically since weather conditions after a mild start have become more winter like.  She and several members of the local clergy spearheaded the effort to establish the shelter which offered dinner and breakfast to their overnight guests.


Pierzakowski said the goal remains finding a permanent home for the shelter with showers which were not provided at the old facility.  Funding to make that happen, though, hasn’t quite been there.


In the meantime, Pierzakowski said any homeless person requesting help will be given a ride to a shelter in Michigan City.  “If we need to transport people that’s what we’ll do,” she said.

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