Director says county funding cut would hit Shepherd’s Inn hard

Published 7:47 am Wednesday, June 27, 2018

As the time draws nearer for the Carter County Commission to approve the county’s annual budget, one local non-profit agency director is remaining hopeful commissioners will have a change of heart regarding proposed funding cuts to outside agencies.

When members of the Carter County Budget Committee adopted a proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, the committee decided to cut out funding for non-mandated outside agencies as a means to decrease expenditures and avoid a larger property tax rate increase.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The Shepherd’s Inn is one of the nine agencies who saw their allocation from the county drop to zero in the proposed 2018-19 fiscal year budget. Last year, The Shepherd’s Inn received $12,000 from the county and had requested the same allocation for the new budget year.

Dr. Paul Gabinet, director of The Shepherd’s Inn, said he hopes the commissioners will change their mind and restore funding to the agencies serving the community. The Shepherd’s Inn was founded in Carter County 21 years ago and is the community’s only domestic violence and temporary homeless shelter for women and children. Since opening its doors, Gabinet said the shelter has served thousands of residents in their time of need.

“We are it when it comes to Carter County for women and children,” Gabinet said. “We see ourselves as an essential service.”

When clients come to the shelter, they often have only the clothes on their backs and have just left homes where their lives were in danger.

“Women come in bruised and battered, both physically and psychologically,” Gabinet said.

The Shepherd’s Inn provides them with a place of safety, but the shelter staff help in other ways as well, such as assisting clients with signing up for programs to help them get other needed services such as food stamps, public housing, childcare, educational programs, and a variety of other things.

“We provide a lot of services for our clients,” Gabinet said.

In 2017, the shelter saw 1,776 occupancy days, which Gabinet said is calculated by the number of people at the facility and the number of days they are there. For example, if a woman comes to the shelter with two children and they are there for five days, that adds up to 15 occupancy days.

The average stay at the shelter is 15 days long, Gabinet said, and it is a rare occurrence that there is a day where no one is staying at the facility.

If the funding is not restored, Gabinet said the loss of funding would hit The Shepherd’s Inn hard.

“It would be fairly devastating for us,” Gabinet said. “That $12,000 is our house payment.”

A few years ago, the shelter went through hard times financially, and the bank began foreclosure proceedings on the house used by Shepherd’s Inn to provide a home for their clients. Luckily, the community rallied to call for help, and the home was saved, Gabinet said.

The shelter then presented a funding request to the county for enough funds to cover the mortgage payments for the year, which the Commission granted.

“I am very grateful to the County Commission for their sensitivity and support,” Gabinet said. “Their money is designated for the house payment. When we get that money, I take it straight to the bank to make the house payment.”

Gabinet said that while $12,000 may not seem like a lot of money to some other agencies or when compared to the scope of the overall county budget, that funding constitutes a significant portion of the shelter’s overall budget of approximately $90,000.

“For us, it’s huge. That’s our house payment,” Gabinet said. “We don’t have money for the house payment. If we don’t have a house, we can’t do our job.”

Gabinet said the shelter does not have a funding source that could replace the lost funding from the county if the proposed budget cut is approved. The majority of the shelter’s funding comes from churches, individual donors, and fundraisers hosted by the shelter.