SCHOOL TO SHELTER?
Standing empty for the past year and a half, Prudenville Elementary may get a second life, as a homeless shelter and central campus for area service agencies.
St. Vincent dePaul approached the Houghton Lake Board of Education Monday on the possibility of purchasing the former school. Bud Domurath, store manager of the Prudenville St. Vincent dePaul store, presented an introduction to the idea, on behalf of President Rosy Dominguez, who was not in attendance.
"All of us have felt the heartbeat of the poor and homeless in this community for many years," he read from a prepared statement. "We are all aware of their numbers and needs."
Domurath said St. Vincent dePaul of Prudenville has decided to provide shelter, food, care and counseling for the poor and homeless, either by building a complex east of its store, or opting to house the facility in the former elementary building, should a feasibility study determine it would be cost effective.
St. Vincent dePaul Assistant Store Manager and Community Relations Director Jim Green told the Resorter the shelter could provide possibly 20 to 35 beds, for families and individuals. Shower rooms would need to be constructed, and electrical and plumbing systems brought up to code.
"I think it would be an example of what people can do if they work together," he said. "There's a need out there."
He said service agencies such as United Way, Michigan Works!, Project Help Our People Eat and Northern Michigan Human Services could be housed there as well.
"They're all very supportive," Green told the Resorter.
"It's an exciting idea," Superintendent Pete Injasoulian said.
He told the Resorter an appraisal will need to be done of the school building. No purchase price was discussed.
Vice-president Tom Dean said the concept of centralizing services would be "fantastic," and that the purchase of the elementary building would be "beneficial for us and for you."
Domurath, Green and Lori Roberts, Our Lady of the Lake business manager and bus driver for Houghton Lake schools, toured Prudenville Elementary late last week.
Green said the building is very large, and that St. Vincent's would not utilize all the space. The heating and electrical systems looked "stable," he said, except in the oldest section of the building. He said grants would be sought for initial funding, and renting space would provide income. He said if a shelter were opened there, it is St. Vincent dePaul's intention to keep it open.
"We are completely behind St. Vincent dePaul," Roberts said. "This would be very beneficial."
Roberts told the Resorter the service agencies were supportive of being housed in one facility when St. Vincent's originally approached them about being located next to the St. Vincent store on M-55. However, she said she cannot speak for them as to whether that support includes being housed at Prudenville Elementary.
Roscommon County Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Misty Klatt told the Resorter Habitat is interested in building a new ReStore next to St. Vincent's store on M-55. She said Habitiat would also help build the homeless shelter.
"It's going to be very exciting," she said. "The facility - if it's cost effective - could be wonderful," she said.
The St. Vincent dePaul board of directors will meet Dec. 13, and the discussion of purchasing Prudenville Elementary will be on its agenda.
Domurath said St. Vincent dePaul grant-writers can give his board a timeline for completion, if the purchase is completed. He estimated ground-breaking next spring, and being ready to serve people before next winter.