MOUNT VERNON — Knox County Commissioners approved an amended agreement Tuesday that will deliver more funding to The Winter Sanctuary, Inc., the area’s homeless shelter on West Vine Street in Mount Vernon that is open in the winter months through April. Commissioners Teresa Bemiller, Thom Collier and Bill Pursel passed the item unanimously.
The agreement is between The Winter Sanctuary, which is the contractor, and Knox County Department of Job and Family Services, the county agency providing increased funds.
“This amendment hereby amends the agreement originally dated November 9, 2018 to furnish individuals with expenses associated with emergency shelter,” the amendment states. “This amendment adds an additional $5,000 to the contract paid upon receipt of signatures.”
The total contract amount shall not exceed $15,000, the agreement also states. Besides commissioners, other signatories to the amended agreement were Matthew Kurtz, director of Knox County JFS, and the prosecuting attorney’s office.
This past December, during a special series on homelessness in The News, Kurtz said the previously allotted $10,000, now up to $15,000 for The Winter Sanctuary, is used to provide help for the homeless including motel stays for families. That amount had been big enough to keep up with demand but now an additional amount has been appropriated.
JFS stays in communication with The Winter Sanctuary to determine what its needs are, Kurtz added, while noting that funding for homeless shelter purposes is limited because up to 80 percent of JFS funding is federal, and designated for those who have qualified for TANF — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Kurtz had also noted that other organizations such as Interfaith Social Services, which seeks longer-term housing options for families in need, and Behavioral Healthcare Partners, assisting those with mental illness, also help to alleviate homelessness in Knox County. Some homelessness, Kurtz noted, is caused by individuals waiting on a determination to qualify for CI (Social Security Income) or SSDI (Social Security Disability Income). There is also a long waiting list for federal housing vouchers in Knox County with limited options for housing availability.
Commissioners participated Tuesday in a tour of county water and wastewater facilities, including the county’s water and sewer plants, provided by Jeff Pickrell, water and wastewater superintendent. They also visited an important 500-foot stretch of the Kokosing River near Pipesville Road in Howard, where commissioners commented that an impressive erosion control project has taken root over the past six months.
Last November, hundreds of willow stakes were planted along the 500-foot by 25-foot stretch of the river, not far from five county water wells serving its Apple Valley water customers. Due to river bank erosion over the years, the river has been coming ever closer to the wells.
The willow stakes — which have taken root, and are sprouting limbs and leaves — were funded using a grant of $150,000 from the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, with $29,000 more coming from county water funds. County Administrator Jason Booth said scenic river officials from the state Department of Natural Resources have made recent comments about the success of the willow plantings, which in effect are creating an inter-connected root system to stop bank degradation. The holes for the willow stakes plantings were created by Mark Harness Construction of Norwalk, using a trackhoe with an attached pipe for hole punching.
“In the future we may plant some additional trees,” Booth said.