Shelter director begins Monday

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 24, 2005

Alecia M. Gregg doesn’t just want to give the homeless food and a place to sleep.

The new executive director of the Suffolk Shelter for the Homeless, who starts tomorrow, believes her job is to do whatever it takes to help the shelter’s tenants learn to stand on their own again.

“At the heart of this shelter are the tenants we serve,” said Gregg, a South Carolina native who moved to Suffolk with her family – husband and two sons three years ago. Before joining the shelter’s team, she worked as an in-home counselor for juveniles in Norfolk.

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“My focus is on the people we serve and assisting them with developing skills that will help them reach their goals,” said Gregg, who has a master’s degree in human services counseling from Reagent University

In coming months, she hopes to implement and in some cases, expand, existing programs designed to help tenants break out of the homelessness cycle.

Gregg was one of more than two dozen people who applied for the position, said board member Sandra Hefferon.

Her credentials, as well as her ideas for beefing up the shelter’s program offerings for tenants, captured the board’s eye, she added.

“We had a lot of applicants with decent backgrounds,” Hefferon said. “Alecia has some business experience … but the main thing she has are the credentials needed to deal with problems commonly experienced by the homeless population.

She is in touch with their needs.

“She believes we are here to help them develop life skills. She wants to help those secure permanent housing, find jobs and to really track their success.”

Gregg is the shelter’s third executive director since last May, when former director Terry Miller abruptly resigned at the board’s request.

Several weeks later, at the request of the shelter’s board of directors, state police launched a criminal investigation into Miller and the shelter’s financial records, said Cola Cobb, outgoing board chairman. Cobb, a founding member of the shelter, will continue to serve on the board.

Cobb declined to discuss discrepancies that prompted the board to call for an investigation. Lt. Steve Chumley, who is overseeing the state police audit, said his agency is still several weeks again from completing the audit.

The results will be turned over to the Commonwealth’s Attorney Phillips C. Ferguson to determine whether criminal charges will be lodged, Chumley added.

In the wake of the police investigation, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development has withheld nearly $70,000 in funding from the shelter and launched its own investigation, said Willie Fobs, the agency’s associate director of housing.

The agency has wrapped up that audit and has issued a reporting identifying policy changes that are needed at the shelter.

In recent months, the shelter has implemented policies that the DHCD identified as short fallings, Fobs said. He expects the state will be willing to turn over its fund once his staff meets with Gregg.

The state is also calling for the shelter’s board of directors to get specialized training through the state. The board is willing to receive the training from the state, Cobb said.