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Alle-Kiski Area HOPE Center evicts 13 clients

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Alle-Kiski Area HOPE Center

The Tarentum-based center assists victims of domestic violence in the northern communities of Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. Its emergency shelter has a 23-bed capacity divided among seven family rooms. Executive Director Michelle Bond said the shelter has operated at or near capacity for the past four years.

The 24-hour emergency hot line is 888-299-4673. The shelter can be reached at 724-224-1100 or hopecenter@akhopecenter.org.

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By Liz Hayes

Published: Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 1:26 a.m.

The Alle-Kiski Area HOPE Center made the unprecedented move Tuesday evening of evicting all of the residents from its emergency shelter.

Executive Director Michelle Bond said the seven women and their six children were ordered to leave after residents threatened and assaulted staff members.

“I really think that sometimes when you have community-living situations, there are personalities that when put together are volatile,” Bond said.

“This was just the perfect storm of personalities.”

Bond said problems began Friday when one resident spit on and attempted to assault a staff member.

Bond said the shelter began making arrangements to remove the resident, but wasn't able to do so immediately.

“It was already a highly emotionally charged group of participants,” Bond said. “It sent a message that whatever they did, they could not be removed from shelter.”

Problems, including minor vandalism, continued over the weekend.

A house meeting was called Tuesday evening with the center's director of supportive services, the coordinator of residential services and a residential advocate.

Bond said two staff members were assaulted by two residents at the meeting and threats that alarmed Bond were made against shelter staff.

Bond considered the threats serious enough that she felt the safest thing to do was remove all residents from the shelter.

That is something that's never happened in her 10 years with the HOPE Center.

“You want to provide the greatest good to the greatest number,” Bond said. “Sometimes, that means you have to make tough decisions.

“When your mission is the elimination of domestic violence, safety is everything.”

She believed the residents had been in the shelter for periods ranging from a few days to three weeks.

The children present ranged from preschoolers to teenagers.

Bond said the center offered the residents bus tickets and allowed them to make calls to other facilities to seek shelter.

She said the evicted residents will be eligible for help through the center's nonresidential services.

Bond estimated it took the residents about three hours to vacate the shelter.

During that time, she said, the departing residents caused an estimated $10,000 in damage — including leaving a lit cigarette that had begun to catch a shower curtain on fire before it was discovered.

Bond said Tarentum police were on hand during the eviction to ensure problems didn't escalate.

She said no charges were pressed against the former residents; the assaulted staff members did not require medical treatment. The police department couldn't be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Shelter remains open

Bond said the shelter is not closed.

Employees planned to work into the early morning today to prepare a room for a new resident expected to arrive some time after midnight.

The shelter's 24-hour emergency hot line was answered when a reporter called.

In addition to a 30-day emergency shelter, the HOPE Center offers transitional housing, legal advocacy, prevention education, crisis intervention and counseling.

That education usually includes safety training — something Bond will be reviewing with staff as well.

“They're going to need some support in the coming days to restore their safety and confidence,” Bond said. “The wind is out of their sails.

“It's sad, because we're a place of peace and safety,” Bond said. “That things spiraled out of control is heartbreaking.”

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

 

 
 


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