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Alle-Kiski Area HOPE shelter reopens after repairs

| Monday, April 29, 2013, 12:11 a.m.

After an unexpected closing earlier this month, the Alle-Kiski Area HOPE Center's emergency shelter is again serving abused women and children.

On April 2, seven women and their six children were evicted because of threats to staff and damage to the shelter.

HOPE Center Executive Director Michelle Bond said volatile personalities clashed and forced the unprecedented action.

Board chairwoman Mary Bowlin said Wednesday that Bond and her staff professionally handled the difficult situation.

It was the first mass eviction since the center opened its doors in Tarentum in 1989.

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence spokeswoman Ellen Lyon said the incident also was a first for the 50 other domestic shelters in the state.

Bond said HOPE Center officials wanted to reopen the shelter the day after the incident, but considerable work needed to be done first.

The shelter was inspected and reopened nine days later, on April 10, after the shelter's maintenance crews and staff completed about $10,000 worth of cleanup and repairs, Bond said.

By Wednesday, 21 women and children were using the shelter without a problem, Bond said.

“We're back to full occupancy,” she said.

Tarentum police said there haven't been other violent incidents at the center.

Women and children may spend two to 30 days in the shelter. Some transitional lodging is available after that.

The shelter has rules to protect the residents, staff and community, Bond said.

Some people are asked to leave the shelter for drug or alcohol use, violence or threatening staff. But such evictions are infrequent, Bond said.

She said the events leading to April 2 left Bond and her staff in fear that someone would be seriously injured because of escalating tension.

Employees were told they could have filed charges if they had been assaulted, but no criminal charges were filed.

“It was their choice,” Bond said.

“When I made the decision to close down, I did it for the safety of all,” Bond said. “I knew it could be very negative public relations for us.”

But Bond indicated that the backlash was minimal.

“Community support has been very positive,” Bond said.

Bowlin said Bond has board support, too.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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