Shelter advocates hope for happy ending
Story by Chris Graham
New Directions isn’t giving up on the idea of being able to operate a shelter for abused women in Waynesboro.
But has the cover that would seem to be so important for the security of those who would need to be able to tap into the service offered already been hopelessly blown with the publicity that has come following the Waynesboro Board of Zoning Appeals’ decision to deny a special-use permit that would be required to locate the shelter in the Tree Streets location?
“We had gone to the city about keeping the location secret. We did not want to come out in public with it – and we were told that we had to, by law, because it was a public hearing,” said Stacy Long, the executive director of New Directions, a Staunton-based agency that serves the Greater Augusta region.
“Most shelters in Virginia are not at undisclosed locations. We are about the only one – Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, there’s a big sign in front of the actual location,” Long said in an interview on “The New Dominion Show” this week.
“We’re hoping that months down the road, if we are awarded this facility, that people will just forget,” Long said.
New Directions currently operates its shelter for abused women in Staunton. The agency owns the home used for the shelter – but the mortgage runs the nonprofit around $3,300 a month. A Waynesboro couple offered the home in the Tree Streets in the form of a donation – which Long said would allow New Directions to redirect the estimated $40,000 annual mortgage costs to other core services.
The matter will come up on the agenda of Waynesboro City Council and the Waynesboro Planning Commission next month – but if the effort to get the special-use permit isn’t successful at the local-government level, Long said that will be it. New Directions could appeal the decision of the Board of Zoning Appeals in court – but Long said there are no plans to go that route. Neither are there plans in place to follow the suggestion of several community members who have said that New Directions could accept the donation of the house, sell it and then dedicate the proceeds from the sale to its bottom line.
“I think where (the donors) are coming from is they want to give the house to the community – and use it for some organization. And what it may be is that they donate it to a different organization that can house less people – and I know that if you have eight or less staying in the home, I know that a mental-health facility can go in there. And I think that’s the route that they will take,” Long said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.