Despite changes, at shelter, there’s still plenty to do

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 7, 2005

A new executive director will take over the reins of the Suffolk Shelter for the Homeless within the next two weeks.

The board of directors is in the final stages of hiring a candidate to lead the 41-bed shelter, said Cola Cobb, the board’s chairman. He expects to name the successful candidate within the next few days.

&uot;We had some good applicants that applied for the job,&uot; said Cobb. &uot;We haven’t rushed to fill the position because we wanted to make sure we got the person with the right credentials and experience.&uot;

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Suffolk businesswoman Karen Rogers, who filled in for several months as interim executive director, stepped down on Sept. 30. She assumed the post this summer to help the shelter recover from a string of problems made public last May when former executive director Terry Miller abruptly resigned.

Prior to her departure, Miller had been publicly criticized for her policy of closing the shelter on major holidays.

Then, weeks after her departure, the Virginia State Police launched a criminal investigation into alleged embezzlement and mismanagement of money.

After discovering that the shelter had submitted duplicate bills for reimbursement to two different agencies between July 2004 and February 2005, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development withheld more than $72,000 pending its own investigation.

DHCD will continue to withhold its funding until it has had a chance to meet with the new director, said Willie Fobs, the agency’s associate director of housing. &uot;We want to make sure the new executive director understands our agency’s position in terms of future and current funding.&uot;

In an Aug. 8 report to the shelter, DHCD identified a number of problems: the lack of a formal policy and procedures manual; a financial system that wasn’t updated in a timely manner; poorly kept timesheet policies; and a &uot;non-existent&uot; grants management system.

&uot;The shelter has complied and corrected a number of issues we identified,&uot; said Fobs. &uot;We were ready to move forward on reinstating funding until Karen Rogers resigned.

&uot;We want to get the funding into the region. We know there are needs in the area that need to be addressed … but we have to make sure the money is being expended properly.&uot;

Lt. Steve Chumley, who is overseeing the state police audit, said his agency is hoping to finish within the next few weeks.

That audit was put on hold after the lead investigator was called away to work on another project in Richmond, Chumley said. Work will resume of the shelter’s audit next week, he added.

&uot;It hasn’t been forgotten or dropped,&uot; Chumley said. &uot;Nothing has changed. We’ve just had to balance that with the other project for while.&uot;