Plight of local Helpline shelter is sign of the times

Yet, problems such as homelessness and drug addiction are not going away. Private donations are needed.

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The Great Recession, despite claims by economists it is on its way out, still has enough residual bite to cause pain for many people in this Valley.

Sadly, those who are hurting the most are those who have already been pummeled by hard times. That's because organizations established to help those in need continue to see a decline in funding as governments at all levels are tightening their belts.

Last week, Helpline learned its shelter for homeless women (and some children) will see its funding cut in half on Jan. 1 because a federal grant is no longer available.

"We serve about 10 (women) a night," said Helpline Executive Director Dan Willms.

The shelter was established in 2009 by Helpline. It planned to operate on a budget of $105,000 next year, with $50,000 of that coming from a contract with Walla Walla County's Department of Human Services funded by a federal grant. That grant, like many federal and state grants, is no longer available.

The shelter is used mostly by women in their late 30s who often have substance addictions or mental-health problems, Willms said. Finding a shelter that accepts women with substance-abuse problems is not easy.

Yet, these women need a place to stay. Without a shelter such as Helpline's, the problems these women face will only grow worse.

At the Helpline shelter in the Eastgate area, women in need get help to find and keep a job, some short-term therapeutic counseling and development of an action plan that will get them to permanent housing, Willms said. The women are also given clothing and resources to furnish an eventual home.

Helpline is not alone with having fiscal problems. Many charitable organizations are having funding challenges because government grants are drying up all over.

This means donations from the public must increase. Homelessness and drug addiction are problems that are not going away.

Will it happen in time to save the Helpline shelter? Maybe.

But even if it is saved -- and we hope it can be because the service it provides is so vital -- other organizations that do so much good in this community are also in need of financial help.

That's something worth pondering during this Christmas season.

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