The Daniel Pitino Shelter has been working to fill their executive director position since former director Thad Gunderson decided to step down from the position after two years. After a month of accepting and reviewing applications, the shelter’s board of directors said their search is nearing its end.
For now, Gunderson’s void is being filled by Becky Barnhart, who is working as interim executive director until a new hire is made. According to Chairman of the Board Kathy Wright, Barnhart is one of several who has applied for the executive director position.
“We are still conducting the search,” Wright said. “We’re not rushing anything. We had posted about the position in our bulletins and we’re about a month into the search. Our interim Executive Director Becky Barnhart has been filling in since Thad left. We really miss Thad, but he was an associate pastor at his church and was asked to assume the role as pastor after his church’s pastor passed away.”
At this point, Wright believes almost anyone and everyone who has seriously considered taking on the role as executive director has probably applied. However, she said, the board of directors will wait a few more weeks until they announce a new leader for the homeless shelter.
Things will be operating a little differently under new leadership, Wright said.
After a law was enacted in recent months, the Pitino Shelter will no longer be receiving the same amount of federal funding it’s received in past years. This is due to changing stipulations, Wright said.
“We’re moving toward community-based funding rather than federal funding,” Wright said. “We were told that our shelter doesn’t fit the criteria outlined in a new law that was passed. They want people to live in individual units. Our building doesn’t have the set-up for the structural changes that would be required.”
Along with requiring units to be more individualized and apartment-like, rather than open-concept, Wright said the new law requires that these apartment structures have their own kitchens attached.
“They want it to be set up like apartments with kitchens,” Wright said. “We re-did some bathrooms, trying to meet these stipulations, but the new law wanted no community kitchens.”
Because the Pitino Shelter offers food every morning through the Saint Stephen Cathedral Soup Kitchen, Wright said the idea of conforming to individualized kitchens didn’t fit the outline that the homeless shelter has abided by for many years.
“We want to spend money on the people, not on [renovations],” Wright said.
Because the Pitino Shelter will receive less federal funding, however, the new executive director will need to be someone who’s willing to advocate and raise money for the shelter.
“We’re looking for someone who has the ability to go out into the community and raise some funds,” Wright said. “We want somebody who can tell the story of the shelter. We are the only family shelter in place for the entire city. We are the only one who takes in entire families.”
Wright expects the board to name a new executive director before the end of summer.