Former Gustke shelter to become housing

PARKERSBURG – The former Gustke Youth shelter is slated for demolition and in its place a four-unit apartment building will be constructed, according to plans presented Monday by representatives of the Latrobe Street Mission.

The mission, which is operating a homeless shelter out of the former Storck’s Bakery building, also on Latrobe Street, is housing 72 homeless individuals a night, Greg Smith, board president, told the Wood County commissioners Monday.

The commissioners earlier voted to turn over the former youth shelter facility to the nonprofit mission.

“We have helped 33 clients find jobs, since we opened the shelter in December,” Smith said.

The mission is in the process of applying for two grants, one through the Affording Housing Act and another through the Sisters of St. Joseph Charitable Fund. The grant from the fund, if awarded, would be used to help with handicapped accessibility and the housing grant would be used to help with demolition of the former Gustke shelter and construction of a new four-unit apartment building.

“We obtained several quotes for renovation on the Gustke shelter, but it was just too cost prohibitive,” Smith said.

Shad Martin, with the mission, said Pickering Associates has developed plans for the former youth shelter building. “There will be four units. We will demo the existing structure. It’s so difficult for the low income to find affordable housing; we are providing some transitional housing at the other shelter; this would be permanent,” Martin said.

“What about addressing the underlying issues these folks are facing?” Commissioner Blair Couch asked.

Martin said the mission is offering life skills classes and will soon be integrating a 12-step recovery program.

Some of the biggest issues are substance and alcohol addiction, and some have mental health issues, so the mission is working with local agencies like Westbrook and others to work with them, Smith said.

“We’ve always had these problems; this is an innovative model you’re bringing,” commission President Wayne Dunn said.

The mission officials asked the county commission for letters of support in their grant efforts.

“We will also do followup with these clients once they are in the housing, providing mentors, working with groups like Circles, and others, getting them financial management classes and other help so they aren’t just left out there on their own,” Martin said.

“We are also working on a community kitchen project next,” Martin said.

In March 2012, Martin approached the county commission about the transfer of the deed for the former youth shelter over to Not For Sale Ministries, which was involved with establishing the new mission.

There was some delay while the group obtained its nonprofit status since code does not permit the county to transfer property to anyone other than a nonprofit entity or other governmental entity without a public auction.

The former Children’s Home Society emergency shelter has been sitting vacant for more than eight years, since the shelter expanded and relocated to its current St. Marys Avenue site. The Latrobe Street building was owned by the county and leased to the Children’s Home Society for use as a shelter. After being contacted by Parkersburg code enforcement officials regarding the deteriorating building, commissioners began looking for options for the property.

The mission has been working closely with the Lynn Street Church of Christ, the Courage to Change Recovery Center and other local churches and area businesses in development of the mission. The homeless shelter opened in December.