Money Woes May Close John George Home
An emergency meeting was conducted to seek help from local foundations to keep the historic home open.
By Pat Rombyer
Without a quick infusion of money, the historic John George Home could become just that – history.
John George Home Administrator Carrie Good works at her desk.
The home’s board of trustees called an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon, seeking a solution to the financially plagued home for elderly men at 1501 W. Ganson St.
“If we don’t get help, a 55-year-old jewel of the community will have to close,” said John Campau, board president. “We need $20,000 by next Wednesday.”
It’s the second crisis in about a year for the home, which faced closure last spring for repeated state health and safety violations. But bringing the home into compliance drained the facility’s financial reserves.
People representing local foundations attended Wednesday’s meeting as well as social workers from the state Department of Human Services, formerly the Family Independence Agency.
“We’re not asking for a blank check. If there aren’t 27 (or) 29 men here in four or five months, we will decide to close,” said Chuck Aymond, a longtime board member. “We’re buying time here.”
Without more money, the board likely will vote to close the 35-bed home, which is currently home to 22 men.
“There are two things we don’t have: money and residents,” Campau said. “We need both.”
The home has been operating with a $20,000 monthly shortfall since last year. Any reserves have been used up, officials said.
“We grab money where we can and we had a bequest,” said Alessandro DiNello, a 25-year board member. “People have been very responsive, but we’ve run out of resources and our reserves are gone.”
One of the purposes of Wednesday’s meeting was to determine if a need exists in Jackson for low-cost housing for low-income men.
“If we can’t fill the rooms, maybe there isn’t,” Campau said.
The home opened in 1948 as a home for “worthy older men.” The city owns the building, which was the first hospital in Jackson and later a residence for nurses in training. It operates on revenues from the residents and donations from the community.
Residency has fluctuated over the years.
Susan Jones, an adult worker at the Department of Human Services, said there is a need. If the home closes, she said it would be unlikely that she could find homes in the Jackson area for all 22 men.
“Some would have to be placed out town,” she said, adding that others could go to the shelter or become homeless.
That’s something Administrator Carrie Good wants to avoid.
“This is their home. We are a family,” said Good, hired a year ago to bring the home back into compliance with state regulations. “They buy their papers here. They go to the movies, the fair. They buy cigars. They count, let’s count them.”
With the exception of one or two residents, the men all are below the poverty level, she said.
More than a dozen people attended the meeting and seemed to agree that the home needs to remain open.
But before they can provide any financial help, representatives from the Jackson County Community Foundation and two private foundations said they need a business plan from the board to take to their own boards.
“We will get a rough draft to them within the next couple of days,” Campau said.
Ironically, the home is well below its capacity at a time when it’s in the best physical shape it’s been in years, board members said.
A year ago, the board was struggling to keep the home open after state inspectors found numerous and repeated violations during several unannounced visits to the home.
Good was hired after two administrators were fired.
Since then, the home has undergone a total cleaning, painting and updating and the entire staff was changed. A registered nurse and housekeepers also were added to the staff.
The added expense, plus increases in insurance costs, forced the board to wipe out its reserves.
No new residents were allowed to move in while the home was under scrutiny by state regulators. Eight men who previously lived there moved elsewhere because they did not fit the criteria for the home. That also hurt the bottom line.
“Now that we’ve passed all the state’s red tape, we can continue to offer low-cost housing to elderly men,” Campau said.
“We are truly a meeting away from closing,” DiNello said, noting that the residents would have to be given 30 days notice. “That’s where we are.”
Reprinted with permission from Jackson Citizen Patriot
Copyright March 24, 2005