UCAN To Look Elsewhere For Women And Children’s Shelter
Two years after the United Christian Advocacy Network identified a downtown Jamestown building for a women and children’s shelter, the nonprofit organization has decided to look elsewhere.
“We continue to recognize the need for a Christ-centered shelter for homeless women and children in Chautauqua County, especially here in the city of Jamestown,” Aaron Wadin, UCAN City Mission executive director, told The Post-Journal on Tuesday. “However, at this time we have actually decided to pause and prayerfully consider other locations and options as we move forward in the process.”
In March 2021, UCAN announced it was looking at turning 100-120 N. Main St. into a viable shelter comprising of nine units for families with 40 beds with an additional 45 beds for single women. The building is within sight of UCAN’s shelter for men on West First Street in Jamestown.
Renovation work had come to a halt after asbestos was found in the drywall. Wadin said an architecture firm completed about 30% of the work to turn the formerly vacant, four-story building into livable space.
Wadin said grant funding was needed to fully remove the asbestos.
“We didn’t feel it was wise to continue having them do work if we were going to continue racking up a bill knowing that we probably weren’t going to be able to get this project going forward,” he said.
Discussions recently took place with city officials regarding the project.
UCAN board members this month voted to put the property up for sale. Wadin said one offer for the building already has been received while others have expressed interest.
Five months after UCAN said it was attempting to buy the North Main Street building, the city’s mayor expressed financial concerns with the multi-million dollar project. The issue came up during a meeting of the Jamestown Urban Renewal Agency in which UCAN sought to borrow $187,000 to purchase and renovate the property while it had an outstanding lien of $123,000 for its West First Street building.
At the time, Jamestown held the lien due to federal grant money it provided for facade improvements to the men’s shelter.
To borrow money for a women and children’s shelter, UCAN hoped for the city’s lien to be “subordinated,” meaning the city would not be in the first position should there be a foreclosure on the property.
“I’m very supportive of a women’s shelter,” Mayor Eddie Sundquist said at the August 2021 JURA meeting. “I’m very concerned about the financial position and not having the financials in place for that shelter, which is a huge component of this.”
Wadin said the organization is committed to establishing a women and children’s rescue shelter. He wants UCAN to be “good stewards” with money that has been raised or donated for a facility.
“We’re going to continue to look at existing buildings in the city of Jamestown,” he said. “One of the board members even mentioned, ‘Hey, what would be the possibility if we found some land that we could actually build our own and make it to specifications that we would want.'”
He also alluded to other local organizations that are either building new women shelters or are in the process of moving to new facilities.
“You know the saying that it takes a village holds true as Chautauqua Opportunities has an 18-bed women’s shelter coming around the corner,” he said. “The Salvation Army has a new women and children’s (shelter) for domestic violence coming around. Then also with the approval and the forward motion of the Lofts down at Community Helping Hands, there’s going to be a lot of resources for women and children very soon — sooner than what we would have been able to provide with this project.
“So, we’re thankful for the community that’s already addressing all of these issues. We want to be part of that team, and we want to be able to do it in our lane. We only want to do it if we can do it great.”
UCAN currently operates a shelter for men that provides a place to stay, life-skills training, health care and hygiene, and local church connections. The future shelter would offer similar services, but solely for women with children.