RUPERT — Board members have closed the Mini-Cassia domestic violence shelter after firing the director and shelter advocate.
Alma Magallon, vice president of the Mini-Cassia Shelter Inc. Advocates Against Violence board said the two staff members were fired May 24 and then the shelter was temporarily closed.
The board made the decision to terminate the director because she does not have the needed skills, like grant writing and presentation skills, and she was not meeting other duties like fundraising, Magallon said.
The decision was made after talking with various people in the community who expressed concerns about how the shelter was operating, she said.
“It’s not our intention to deny these services,” board member Juana Hernandez said. “But we knew the moment we let them go we’d have to close (the shelter) and that’s a risk we had to take.”
The board also removed two families from the shelter’s safe house.
“They have no idea the impact this is going to have in the community,” former director Lynda Brennen said. “The board says they will send the domestic violence victims to the shelters in Twin Falls and Pocatello, but those shelters are usually full.”
There is no timeline for reopening the shelter, which is the only domestic violence shelter in Mini-Cassia.
The shelter’s office phone number has been redirected to 208-430-4357, which is being answered by board members.
“Our intention is to reestablish the shelter and start rebuilding trust in the community again,” Magallon said.
Hernandez said concerns arose for her when more detailed financial documents were not presented to the board after they were requested.
“As board members, we have to be beyond reproach,” Magallon said. “It’s important to me for the community to know that we want to be transparent.”
Denise Danford, who has been on the board for two years, said she received no notification the board meeting was being held to vote on closing the shelter.
The board has nine members and requires a quorum of five members, Danford said.
Hernandez said four “active members” were present at the meeting and the other members had not been attending meetings at all.
She said emails had been sent to all board members notifying them of meetings.
Danford said she could not attend all of the board meetings due to her work schedule but she had never resigned from her seat.
“I don’t agree with this at all,” Danford said. “Our area needs this women’s shelter.”
Magallon said the board removed the families from the safe house after discovering people staying in the safe house were suffering from bug bites.
“We don’t know what kind of bugs they are,” Magallon said.
The families were put up in a motel, and one family has since left.
The board will continue to help people in the community find resources, Hernandez said.
Hernandez said the board’s first priority is cleaning up the safe house, which may include getting new mattresses and linens and hiring an exterminator to get rid of pests. Then the board will work on fundraising, come up with a new name for the shelter and “find an appropriate person to run it.”
Hernandez said it is imperative that changes are made at the shelter so it will qualify for federal funding in the future.
The shelter has operated on a shoestring budget since it lost its $50,000 yearly federal funding through the Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victim Assistance for being out of compliance with regulations after a former director left.
After losing the funding, the shelter was reorganized but never closed its doors.
Earlier this year the city of Rupert notified the shelter that it would need to relocate its office space to make room for the new Boys and Girls Club. The city temporarily allowed the shelter to use a room behind City Hall as office space.
Magallon said the board will meet with Rupert officials next week to discuss the use of the room.