Shelter shut

CHOICES set to close doors after cuts

| Marcus Clem editor in chief |

| Audrey Dighans copy editor |

The lone public shelter for indigent families in Pittsburg will no longer accept applications for residency and will shut down by the end of March, the Southeast Kansas Community Action Program (SEK-CAP) announced in a press release on Wednesday, Feb. 19.
The Creative Housing Opportunities – Innovative Childhood Education Services (CHOICES) shelter will close on March 31, after funding for shelter personnel runs out; current residents will be given time to find new housing.
About half, or $400,000, of the grant the SEK-CAP depends on has been cut by the state.
“We have no choice but to begin preparations for closing the shelter,” said Steve Lohr, SEK-CAP executive director, in a press release.
SEK-CAP attempted to find some way to make up the difference, Lohr says, including the possible expansion of support from the city of Pittsburg or a proposal to use volunteer labor from Pittsburg State’s social work program.
The university’s theater honor society, Alpha Psi Omega, tried to save CHOICES with a benefit performance.
“We are still planning to … see where our donation of food, blankets and $450 earned from ‘A Very Potter Prequel’ will be better placed during this devastating time,” said Taylor Patterson, society president and senior in theater. “It’s a shame to see such a good cause go under.”
No alternatives yet exist.
“All ideas for funding and service provision are welcomed,” the SEK-CAP press release said, “and every option is under consideration. Despite these best efforts … The shelter will close…”
The danger of a loss of funding has been known to SEK-CAP for about a year. The organization has made presentations and published several press releases advocating for funding to be restored, to no avail.
Rep. Julie Menghini, D-Pittsburg, says the funding loss represents a lack of “priorities.”
“A loss of half of their grant is devastating,” Menghini said, “and you can see the results. I’m not sure why they did this, and everything is tight across the state, but … Cutting taxes for wealthy Kansans over keeping a homeless shelter in business doesn’t seem to be the right way.”
Most of the residents of CHOICES are single parents and their children. Macy Gerken, who grew up with a single mother, says the news of the closure is “awful.”
“I am extremely disappointed in our state’s ideals of what is necessary and what is not,” said Gerken, freshman in vocal music performance. “I know the painstaking effort that these brave mothers go through every day … The fact that this whole operation to help them is being taken away confounds and disgusts me all at once. Kansas is slowly losing its sense of humanity.”
Megan Stoneberger, coordinator for Southeast Kansas – National Organization for Women (SEK-NOW), says that the loss of CHOICES affects the entire community.
“Losing the shelter will be a significant loss … for women in poverty,” Stoneberger said.

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