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Jericho Road Ministries again seeks to open new shelter

BROOKSVILLE — With the need for space still outstripping the supply of available beds, Jericho Road Ministries is proposing to open a new shelter on the north side of Brooksville.

Next month, the organization will seek approval of a special exception use permit for a shelter on 1.3 acres on the east side of Broad Street, just north of Campbell Drive, that would house 30 men.

The nonprofit organization would use an existing 9,910-square-foot building on the site, which is owned by New Covenant Baptist Church of Brooksville, formerly known as the Northside Baptist Church of Brooksville.

The building has been used in the past as both a church and a school. That would make using it as a shelter a perfect fit, said John Mitten, president of Jericho Road Ministries.

In 2010, the organization was met with controversy as it attempted to build a new shelter with 48 beds on its site on Howell Avenue, south of the site it is now contemplating. Neighbors objected to having homeless people in their neighborhood and near Hernando High School.

While the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission rejected the plan, the County Commission narrowly approved it. But the project was contingent on a federal grant, and the money never came through.

The new plan is not attached to a grant, and Mitten said officials are still working out funding and other issues.

"We will step out in faith on this, and God will provide,'' he said.

The new shelter building would house men involved in the ministry's New Life Program. The three-phase program — with each phase lasting at least 12 weeks — is designed to help individuals to reach self-sufficiency.

Having the program contained in the new building would be a big help to the organization, Mitten said. The existing men's shelter on Mondon Hill Road could house the homeless who simply need a bed for a night or two and those who are being screened to go into the New Life Program.

"We will be able to use the Mondon Hill facility as a screening location as well as for more straight homeless needs,'' Mitten said. "Because of the waiting list, we're still underserving the need.''

The facility would be staffed by five full-time staffers and an overnight manager. While there, clients would not be allowed to own a vehicle, so parking should not be a problem, according to the narrative of the Jericho Road application.

County planning staffers recommend approval of the request, with conditions that include installation of an opaque fence on three sides of the property.

During the previous hearings on shelter expansion, Mitten told commissioners that Jericho Road facilities have always been good neighbors and that clients have not caused problems.

Jericho Road does not accept walk-in clients or those currently abusing a substance. There is also a strict set of shelter rules that govern resident and employee conduct, and failure to follow the rules leads to immediate dismissal from the program, the application states.

Mitten said Jericho Road officials are excited about the possibilities that a new facility offers.

"This is an opportunity to be able to enlarge our capacity to meet the overwhelming needs in this community,'' he said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

Jericho Road Ministries again seeks to open new shelter 03/30/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 30, 2012 6:29pm]

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