Homeless shelter scrutinized by former residents

By Gus Bode

Since 1985, people finding themselves without a home or a meal have been encouraged to visit Carbondale’s Good Samaritan House, the city’s only homeless shelter. Some residents at the shelter, however, have not been happy with their experience there.

Several ex-residents of the shelter said they have serious complaints about the shelter and its staff, ranging from wrongful eviction to harassment by the staff.

Shirley Miller, a former resident of the shelter, is now living with her son, Kenneth Taylor, in the Crossings Mobile Home Park. Miller and Taylor both say they were treated unfairly during their separate times at the shelter.

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“When you’re in there, you don’t feel like you’re in a good place, you feel uncomfortable,” Miller said. “Ever since I got evicted from Good Samaritan and hear that name, I get sick in the pit of my stomach.”

Miller said she was evicted because the house was not able to accommodate her wheelchair, and was told to leave because she was in the way. Taylor said he was evicted after an exchange of words with a staff member over the use of a telephone.

Taylor and Miller also said their food portions were inadequate, sometimes consisting of a single hot dog.

Bobby Anderson, Staff Director at the Good Samaritan House, said the house would never evict someone for using a wheelchair, and that they have had several wheelchair-bound residents who have stayed the full 14-day limit, and that residents who get evicted are in the minority.

“We get some people here, that if things aren’t the way they want, they get upset,” Anderson said.

Maggie Taylor, an employee of the Good Samaritan House, said food portions are more than adequate and meals are served three times a day, plus a snack for residents staying overnight.

Though some ex-residents have complained about the shelter, current residents said they have been treated well by staff and are content with the amount of food they are given.

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A resident wishing to be identified only as Anne said she has been staying at the shelter for more than two weeks after fleeing an abusive relationship. Anne said she has seen people get evicted, but they were due to rule violations.

All residents are required to sign a sheet explicitly outlining the rules of the shelter, anyone who breaks the rules can be evicted, but are allowed to come back after two weeks unless the violations were of a violent nature, Anderson said.

Residents staying overnight are also required to help staffers by completing assigned chores. Failure to complete chores is grounds for eviction as well.

“They only give us one chore a day, and I think that’s reasonable,” Anne said.

Since November 2006, Carbondale Police have been called 18 times to the Good Samaritan House. Thirteen were to arrest residents with warrants, three were to assist staff with evicting a resident refusing to leave, while the last two were to serve an order of protection to a resident and a report of a misdemeanor theft.

Deputy Chief Jeff Grubbs said the 13 warrant arrests were the results of the background check that is done on all residents who apply for shelter at the house.

Grubbs likened the shelter to a private residence, and said it is up to their discretion to ask someone to leave.

“It’s like if you have someone in your residence, and you ask someone to leave, and they refuse to leave you can call the Carbondale police,” Grubbs said. “We support the Good Samarian House, and to have only one criminal complaint in a 12-month period speaks volumes about the work they do there.”

David Lopez can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 273 or at [email protected]

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