In early June of 1998, a 40-year-old homeless woman, identified in court documents as Jane Doe, found her way to the Salvation Army's Harbor Light Center in downtown Minneapolis. She was assigned to the Special Needs Unit on the six-story building's third floor, set aside for up to 80 adults with disabilities ranging from bronchitis to schizophrenia.
Right after checking into her cramped, rectangular room, where she was to bunk with seven others, Doe told staffers that the lock on her door was out of order. The small, slender woman--who'd been previously classified by local social-service providers as a "vulnerable adult," with a physical or mental disorder-- was told not to worry. Not only is the Special Needs Unit divided into separate sections for men and women, but it is monitored 24 hours a day. At the very least, Doe would be safer here than on Harbor Light's first two floors, home to much larger rooms and more than 150 beds.
Or so it seemed.
According to documents filed in Hennepin County District Court, Doe was taking an afternoon nap alone in her room on June 15, 1998, when Ronald E. Jones, a homeless man also staying on the Harbor Light's third floor, made his way upstairs, entered Doe's room, and closed the door behind him. Holding Doe down, he warned her in a whisper to "be quiet and not make any noise." Then he raped her. In all, the incident took three minutes. Six hours later the 43-year-old Jones was arrested; last spring he was sentenced to one year in prison and five years probation for third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Jones, who is now a registered sex offender, has since been released. But the incident will haunt Doe--and the Salvation Army--for months, and perhaps years, to come. Last March Doe, who is living in another local homeless shelter, filed a civil lawsuit against the Salvation Army for damages in excess of $50,000, charging that the organization failed to provide adequate protection for residents staying at Harbor Light. A pretrial hearing is set for December 11 in Hennepin County District Court.
Joel Abrahamson, the Salvation Army's local attorney, disputes Doe's claims. Asked for specifics, he faxed City Pages a statement on June 9: "Please be advised that the Salvation Army still maintains that its employees acted reasonably on the date of the alleged assault," he writes, "and that the Salvation Army was in compliance with staffing level requirements established by Hennepin County on that day as well."
The "requirements" to which Abrahamson refers are spelled out in an emergency-shelter contract between Hennepin County and Harbor Light. For more than two decades, the Minneapolis shelter has been paid by the county to feed, house, and supervise some 300 homeless adults a day. This year's contract is worth nearly $1.2 million.
That they've been dragged into Doe's fray with Harbor Light comes as no surprise to Hennepin County officials. Since early 1998 the county has amassed a file that shows a social-service organization plagued by lax security and inefficient management. According to documents in that file, drug dealers roam the halls at Harbor Light. Staff turnover is constant, and neither residents nor workers feel safe. "The Salvation Army's structure is very insular, like that of the U.S. military," observes Marge Wherley, who supervises Hennepin County's Adult Services Division. "They are very closed and protective of their image, so they don't see bad things. They're blinded to them."
In January of last year, county administrators briefly considered terminating their relationship with Harbor Light, even though other facilities in the county equipped to handle the homeless were filled to capacity. "We'd been trying to get the Salvation Army to fix its own problems for months," Wherley recounts. "But things kept getting worse, until we finally started calling around to other agencies trying to find a place for people to go if we canceled our contracts over there. No one had enough room, but we believed at that point that people would be safer on the street than [at Harbor Light]."
For a time it seemed to Wherley and her colleagues that the Salvation Army was taking tangible steps to improve the situation. So rather than leaving 300 homeless people out on the city's streets, the county vowed to work with Harbor Light, scheduling a spate of organizational meetings and site visits in an attempt to get things back on track. The Salvation Army also sent representatives from its regional headquarters in Chicago, and a private firm was hired to improve security.
But by April of this year, Wherley was once again at the end of her rope. "You'd like things to be better," she told City Pages at that time. "But at what point do you really say, 'All right, this contract just can't be saved, and we're doing more harm than good'?"
On May 26 John Baron, who manages the contract with Harbor Light for the county, called the facility to say that the county had begun seeking a place to move about 100 of the most vulnerable residents at the center. Many of those clients, Baron says, are women--women like Jane Doe.
Just a week earlier the Salvation Army informed the county that it would soon be replacing the center's co-directors, Steven and Jennifer Woodard, and assured Baron that they'd launch a renewed effort to hire, train, and retain qualified staff.
Baron, whose job is to make sure the Army abides by the terms of its contract with the county, says he believes that, as in the past, these promises have been made in earnest. But the zero hour is rapidly approaching. "We'd look pretty bad and we wouldn't be responsible if we just waited for the new [directors] and didn't even look into contingencies," he says.
"Things aren't going real well, and I don't know how quickly a [new] person will be able to take hold of that place," adds Wherley. "We're trying to come up with a contingency plan right now. We were caught off guard last year. This time we won't be."
Jane Doe's attorney Gus Nicklow isn't convinced. He is in the process of deposing 15 past and present Harbor Light employees and county staffers who, he says, have told him "unbelievable stories" about what has been going on at the center over the last couple of years. Consequently, he believes the agency is far from meeting its contractual requirements with Hennepin County. "They've failed to have personnel present at all times as required. They did not follow security measures like they said they would," Nicklow alleges. "I've been told that people often just walk through the metal detector with metal on them and it doesn't go off. I've heard that people who want to get alcohol in there just go out on the street and toss it up to people standing out on the second-floor balcony so they won't get caught bringing it in."
The ten-year-old red-brick building at 1010 Currie Ave. is the Harbor Light Center's fourth incarnation since the facility made its Minneapolis debut on Second Street and Marquette Avenue South in 1942. The boxy structure's brown-tinted windows overlook a drab, block-length strip of concrete near the highway exits behind Target Center.
Like other Harbor Light Centers run by the Salvation Army in major metropolitan areas around the nation, the Minneapolis facility offers a wide variety of services ranging from emergency shelter and transitional housing to chemical-dependency and detoxification treatment. (Detox units at the Harbor Light and at 1800 Chicago Ave. S. are funded by a different county contract, one that totals nearly $2.5 million for the year 2000.) A free dinner is served daily to anyone willing to wait in the "public nutrition line" at 5:30 p.m. Other meals, including Sunday brunch, are available only to those who attend religious services in the center's main-floor chapel.
The Salvation Army has modeled its administrative hierarchy after the military. Each center is directed by an officer, often a married couple. In fact, the Army won't accept just half of a married pair. Both people must commit to a career with the organization, which will pay them a small stipend (typically about $25,000 a year), plus a house, a car, medical insurance, and an expense account. And Salvation Army officers don't stay in one place very long; they're required to change posts every few years.
In May 1997 Maj. David Dalberg, who had served as executive director of the Minneapolis Harbor Light for nearly a decade, was promoted to the position of national disaster-relief director in Washington, D.C. Knowing his transfer papers were in the pipeline, Dalberg began grooming his replacements; Steven and Jennifer Woodard, who had been transferred to Minneapolis eight months earlier to learn the job. But as Dalberg prepared for his new post, his staff worried that the replacements were not up to the challenge.
Those who worked with him say Dalberg wasn't shy about getting his hands dirty. He'd routinely walk the halls, often taking time to sit down with shelter guests who wanted to talk about their abusive husbands or alcoholic wives. When a schizophrenic swore he'd seen Jesus or Elvis in the lunchroom, Dalberg didn't flinch. "He had a vision, and you knew he cared about the place," offers Jeff Parr, a former third-floor coordinator at Harbor Light who valued his boss's personal touch. "Dalberg ran the place like one big machine and everyone did their part to keep it going, and people got taken care of. Once he left, you were stuck there alone with the guy shitting in his hands and spreading it all over the wall while some other guy is yelling because his roommate has bronchitis and won't stop coughing and infecting us all. It was really hard to work there sometimes."
After the Woodards took the helm, say Parr and others, the pair were rarely seen outside their sixth-floor offices. Referred to behind their backs as "Barbie and Ken," the good-looking, thirtysomething suburbanites were doomed from the start. It wasn't that they were bad people, staffers say; they simply seemed to lack the leadership skills necessary to do the job. One social worker, wary of having his name published for fear of making waves in the tight-knit world of nonprofit social-service agencies, likens the couple's business manner to that of the musicians aboard the Titanic: Even when the ship was sinking, the band played on. "They can't make decisions about anything, so nothing ever gets resolved," he says. "They just hope the problems will go away."
(Even before they were slated to be transferred away from Harbor Light, the Woodards declined numerous requests to be interviewed for this story--though Steven Woodard did provide a brief written statement. Officials at the Salvation Army's divisional headquarters in Brooklyn Center also refused to comment on the Woodards' performance.)
Jeff Parr says everything ran smoothly for a few months after Major Dalberg's departure, because most of the program managers on each floor had been there for years and knew their jobs well. And when things began to deteriorate, the early symptoms were hardly noticeable. Stray candy wrappers and paper cups started decorating the hallways. The bathrooms were dirtier than usual. There was always a shortage of toilet paper. When guests arrived, there were no clean linens for them. Sometimes the kitchen even ran out of food. People who were supposed to be covered by Hennepin County's contract went without dinner.
In Dalberg's day, violent, drunk, and actively psychotic guests were evicted or sent to the hospital. Former staffers say the Woodards often allowed troubled clients to stay, both because the couple were incompetent and because they feared confrontation. "They are like suburbanites who got dropped into a leper colony," observes one former staff member who would only speak on the condition of anonymity. ("If you want to make a career out of social service, you don't want to piss off the Salvation Army," she explains. "They're huge.")
Mike Davis, who was hired in August 1998 to run emergency-housing services on the second floor, says he repeatedly went to the Woodards asking that a so-called panic button be installed on his floor. He got nowhere. "You have 125 men on that floor with numerous problems--criminal records, drug and alcohol problems, you name it," Davis complains. "And the staff on duty is a four-foot-eleven-inch woman that weighs less than 100 pounds. You've got to have a panic button. But the Woodards just couldn't make a decision."
Davis's account squares with those of other staffers. Responsible for the day-to-day care of the shelter's ever-changing but ever-troubled population, they felt the brunt of the Woodards' inaction, and in exchange for just $6.50 an hour, absorbed more human misery than most people see in a lifetime. And there was no Major Dalberg to dull the edges. As 1999 dragged on, many workers quit. Their managers, weary of repeated pleas to the Woodards for help, left too. Current and former staffers say that those who stuck it out and argued their points were sometimes fired and marched out of the building by security guards who had been called in by the Woodards.
"It was the creepiest way to fire people that I've ever seen," says a woman who worked for a few months on the third floor before quitting in April. "They couldn't get any regular employees, so they brought in temps--it was just another job for them and they had nothing to lose. But when you're working with vulnerable people, you don't want employees with nothing to lose."
Hennepin County's John Baron says it was the unprecedented turnover that exacerbated existing problems like slipshod security and rank-and-file disgruntlement. So by the time Harbor Light got rid of the Woodards, by many accounts it was already too late.
The Woodards' replacements, Bill and Eydie Miller, started work yesterday.
Dressed in a wrinkle-free white button-down shirt and dark slacks, John Baron sits serenely with hands folded in his lap. His voice is deep and flows slowly, as if he were narrating a meditation tape. He has worked as a contract manager for nearly 20 years, he says, and the Salvation Army's current problems pale in comparison to some of the things he has seen at Hennepin County shelters during his career. But there is one difference: "The Salvation Army's situation is unique," says Baron, "because they have a reputation for being a good, stable place for the county to refer people."
On the table in the middle of this Hennepin County Government Center conference room is a stack of Salvation Army contract files dating back to 1995. The 1998 file looks like an unbound copy of the Yellow Pages. That was the year memos, e-mails, letters, and phone messages from people expressing their concerns about the Woodards began pouring in.
"They'd lost most of their middle managers by then," Baron explains. "Those are the people who usually hold things together when there is a lot of staff turnover." By the fall of 1998, homeless guests were being watched over by a skeleton crew of new recruits who had little training, Baron goes on. And there weren't many experienced managers to help them. Many of the complaints referred to conditions on the third floor: unlocked medication carts; inappropriate relationships between staffers and shelter guests; security guards watching TV on the job.
One memo, dated December 28, 1998, was written by David Krall, a county social worker. (Krall declined to be interviewed for this story.) "There was no staff on Harbor Light's third floor last night," the memo reads. "One of the women on three told me that it was a madhouse last night, couldn't sleep because of all the traffic in the halls. She also stated that there were drug dealers walking the halls and people urinating on the floors."
It wasn't long before Krall was moved to compose another memo. "When I got to the Harbor Light this a.m., there was no monitor on duty," he wrote on January 5, 1999. "I asked one of the clients if there was a monitor around and he stated that there had not been one all night. Two other clients verified this, as well as one of the security guards. This may seem like bad news, but a worse situation transpired before the floor was left unstaffed."
Krall went on to describe an incident in which the third-floor monitor, who was known to suffer from mental illness himself, had been working the 3:00-to-11:00-p.m. shift alone--contrary to the county's contract with Harbor Light, which requires three monitors on that shift--when he had suddenly gone berserk. At about 10:00 p.m., Krall had been told, residents on the floor heard the intercom system crackle to life as the monitor recited the infamous one-word soliloquy from the film The Shining: "Redrum!" A pause. "Redrum. Redrum. Redrum." The monitor's maniacal laughter reverberated through the corridors. "The devil will get his due," he hissed.
Baron and his colleagues had been hearing about the monitor's bizarre behavior for more than a month: Staffers had observed him yelling at guests and meeting with them in his office with the door closed. "The door is glassed so he can see out," David Norton, another social worker who worked for the county, had written a week earlier. "But I am concerned that he would not be able to hear if something were to happen on the unit." Other social workers noted in memos and e-mails to Baron that the monitor often went into the staff office, shut the door, then covered the glass with newspapers and towels.
It was Krall's communiqué, recalls county supervisor Marge Wherley, that convinced her and her colleagues that the county had no other choice but to proceed with a plan to terminate its contract with Harbor Light.
On January 7, 1999, in an effort to salvage the relationship, County Administrator Jeff Spartz wrote a letter to Lt. Col. David Grindle, commander of the Salvation Army's divisional headquarters in Brooklyn Center, admonishing Grindle to intervene. "I strongly urge you to draw upon the larger resources of the Salvation Army to assure sufficient levels of qualified staffing for the Harbor Light facility--or, pending county approval, to develop a short-term contract with another agency for staffing and management until longer-term stabilization is possible," he wrote.
Knowing that Grindle might not be "fully aware" of what was going on at Harbor Light, Spartz upped the ante: "Over the past month, staff supervision and services on these units have deteriorated to a level that represents not only a breach of contract, but also a threat to client health and safety. We have brought this situation to the attention of Lts. Steve and Jennifer Woodard, in writing, upon three separate occasions without satisfactory resolution of the problems. We are approaching a point where immediate cancellation of the contracts is a real possibility."
It was not a threat the county made lightly. "In 20 years of working in this business," Marge Wherley points out, "that's the biggest organization I've ever seen the county nearly pull a contract on."
Grindle assured Spartz that relief would be dispatched from his office the following week. "Whatever deficiencies are observed or uncovered will be corrected immediately," he promised in his reply to the county administrator. And indeed, by February an evaluation team from the Army's regional headquarters in Chicago had been dispatched to Harbor Light. Base pay was immediately increased from $6.50 to $8 an hour in hopes of retaining staff. There was talk of finally putting together employee training manuals, which the county had been suggesting for some time. In-house guards were replaced by a private firm.
Six months later three new managers had been hired, and complaints began to drop off. Wherley and Baron sighed with relief. But then Doe filed her lawsuit, two managers quit, and the complaints again escalated. This, in turn, led to more meetings, memos, and phone calls between the county and Harbor Light.
Two months ago Louise Simons, a consultant to the initial evaluation team and social-services director at the Army's Brooklyn Center office, was sent to Minneapolis to take over the day-to-day operations of Harbor Light indefinitely.
The move was an odd one; the Woodards had yet to be transferred. It was only days later that Steven Woodard offered his written response to City Pages' most recent interview request. "I have a reliance that God will surround me with the people, resources and tools needed," Woodard wrote. "Christ has shown me a glimpse of His glory. I've seen God's grace come 10-fold from total reliance on him."
On the way in, Harbor Light residents, visitors, and staffers must pass through an airport-style security system. As a matter of policy, everyone is supposed to empty their pockets into a plastic basket, place their belongings on a conveyor belt connected to an x-ray machine, and proceed through the metal detector. But current and former staffers say the actual procedure depends on the guard's mood and which TV he's watching--the one with the x-ray eye or the one broadcasting Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
For nearly three years, the county has been pressuring the Army to improve security at the center, both at the front door and from floor to floor. In January 1998 a woman walked through the metal detector with a butcher knife and roamed the halls unchecked. On January 4, 1999--six months after Jane Doe was raped--a Hennepin County social worker named Rosemary Foley wrote to county administrators, chronicling her concerns about the instability of the Special Needs Unit. "Very problematic guests are getting on the [third] floor and raising havoc," Foley observed. "Staff appear to be unable to get them off the floor, let alone prevent them from getting to the floor in the first place. It seems there has been a complete breakdown in working relationships between third floor and security staffs. They do not work together as a team, and instead appear to be entrenched in turf battles."
It wasn't until after the Salvation Army heard of Doe's suit that a new rule was instituted: Guards were no longer allowed to watch television while on duty. According to Harbor Light spokeswoman Annette Bauer, there has also been talk of installing additional security cameras, especially on the third floor. (Notes John Baron took during a visit on August 13, 1998, not long after Doe's assault, indicate that Harbor Light administrators had already agreed to put in additional cameras.) To date, however, no additional cameras have been installed.
But even as Harbor Light administrators were trying to make a good impression this spring, rumors began to circulate about the Woodards' plans to cut costs by decreasing the number of off-duty police officers hired to help staff security patrol the halls. "We kept hearing third- and fourth-hand about how they were just going to reduce the number of hours that guards were on duty over there," Baron recounts. "And then we'd call in a panic and say, 'What's going on?' They'd assure us that they weren't doing that. And then we'd hear the rumors again."
In fact, the Woodards were cutting back on security. Minneapolis City Council president Jackie Cherryhomes met with the couple in May, after a police officer called to inform her that Harbor Light staffers had told him they would no longer need as many off-duty officers.
"[The officer] said the Woodards told him that the county had requested the cutbacks. And I thought that sounded really strange, because I didn't think the county would just go and tell them to cut security without telling us about it," says Cherryhomes. Steven Woodard continued to insist to her that the county was asking for fewer security guards until she pressed him for details, Cherryhomes adds, whereupon he switched topics and began talking about Harbor Light's broader budget problems. "The whole thing just feels weird. I can't explain exactly how, but it does," Cherryhomes concludes.
In the end, Harbor Light officials agreed to return to the original level of off-duty police security, at least until Labor Day.
Unfortunately, getting security back to Harbor Light won't be that easy for the Woodards' replacements. "It's always tough in the summer, because there's all kinds of activities for off-duty police to cover," explains Baron. "So this was a bad time for them to have cut back." The county has already paid the Army for this year's security coverage, and Baron says he won't ask Harbor Light to rebate funds earmarked for officers that were never hired. "The administrative effort to collect the funds would cost more than the money lost," he reasons.
Say "Salvation Army," especially in the United States, and it conjures up images of bell ringers and red kettles at Christmastime, or the musical Guys and Dolls, in which the grifter Sky Masterson falls for Army do-gooder Miss Sarah Brown. But the organization is more than quaint symbolism.
In the 135 years since its inception, the Army has grown into an international Christian organization with workers in more than 100 countries. There are more than 14,000 corps (as Army churches are called), and a vast network of social-service organizations that offer everything from health care to help with locating missing relatives. Last year, for the seventh time in a row, the Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked the Army as the No. 1 charity when it comes to raising money from private sources; the tally, $1.2 billion, represented an increase of five percent over the previous year.
It must be name recognition that keeps the money coming in, says Dan Langin, a spokesman for the National Charities Information Bureau, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that keeps track of such data. At any rate, the Army has done little to engender public trust. "They're listed as not responding to our requests for information," Langin says. "That's a red flag to givers, because that tells them that the agency is not being open and accountable. We've had a couple of meetings with them, and they tell us that they will send something, but they haven't so far." Langin says an agency is given three chances to reply to information requests before being listed as nonresponsive.
Contractual relationships between local governments and private nonprofits were unheard of before the early 1980s, according to Michael Stoops, a community organizer with the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C. "Reagan administration cutbacks to the welfare system pushed many more people into homelessness, and people put pressure on cities and counties to do something," Stoops explains. In places like Hennepin County, it was cheaper to contract with private nonprofits than to build and maintain shelters. And so it was that the Salvation Army and other charities began to house people at local taxpayers' direct expense. "Most places get some federal funding now," Stoops adds. "But they didn't even get that until 1988."
As a rule, says Stoops, relationships between county bureaucracies and nonprofits are problematic because the government agencies must do their overseeing from afar, and to make matters worse, nonprofits are often ill-equipped to handle the complex populations they serve. Kris Jacobs, who directs the JOBS NOW Coalition in St. Paul, agrees with the analysis: "These contract situations are a mess. I don't fault the county really. They're stuck because there isn't anywhere else to put people, and they're just damn glad somebody's doing it."
To be sure, Hennepin County is not as happy as it once was. And for good reason. According to Stoops, Harbor Light Centers across the United States have problems, but Minneapolis stands out. "We just don't hear about problems that are as serious very often," he says when told of the lawsuits, security issues, and staff unrest.
John Baron and Army social-services director Louise Simons (the latter of whom, many believe, has been running Harbor Light from behind the scenes for the past year), have had a number of conversations about how their relationship must change. Baron says Simons has repeatedly assured him that the center is on the comeback trail. But Baron, citing a new spate of complaints he received in May, worries that such promises are hollow. "These new reports we've received are disturbing. People are telling us that their staff coverage is extremely thin. Sometimes staff are missing for minutes or hours," he says. "I asked [Simons] whether what I was seeing was the tip of an iceberg or just isolated incidents. She told me there was no iceberg. But how can we be sure? We know people are working double shifts over there. Some work seven days a week and overtime. Louise Simons is even covering some of the shifts herself."
It would seem that Baron may finally be reaching the limit of his patience, and that in his view, the center's incoming directors, Bill and Eydie Miller, represent Harbor Light's last glimmer of a chance to make good on its contract with the county. "We hope they'll get better today or, if not, tomorrow," Baron says. "They do have a new sheriff coming in, and that may eventually help."
Local Salvation Army spokeswoman Annette Bauer terms the Woodards' abrupt transfer to the Salvation Army's Anoka County Corps in Coon Rapids "routine." The Woodards, who are ordained ministers, will lead the small organization, which Bauer describes as a cross between a church and a community center. But the circumstances of the couple's departure tell a different story. Usually, as in the case of Major Dalberg, an outgoing director is given the responsibility of training his replacement. Given just one month's notice of their relocation, the Woodards won't be around to tutor their successors. In fact, their last day was Sunday, June 18--two days before the new executive directors took over. This time there will be no ceremonial passing of the torch.
Unlike the Woodards, Bill Miller was quick to grant an interview request, and he spoke at length by phone from St. Louis as he prepared for his move north. Miller acknowledges that he and his wife have earned a reputation for being called in to clean up messes. Nine years ago they left a Harbor Light in Detroit to shape things up in Missouri. "They called us to St. Louis because of problems similar to the kind you have there in Minneapolis," says the 39-year-old Miller, noting that the St. Louis facility is larger than the Minneapolis location. "Clients were not being treated fairly, and there were a lot of staff problems. Now we've got some good staff and things are running smoothly. I'm ready for a change."
Miller says he visited the Minneapolis facility a few months ago and is aware of the center's problems. He declines to comment on what his strategy might be for turning things around. "I just want to get up there and have a fresh start," he says. "I hope I can get the same results that Major Dalberg did. If I could do that, I would be happy."
He says he and Eydie, who have a nine-year-old son, met in college. Both have master's degrees in social work. He'd originally planned on a career in law enforcement, but that got sidetracked. "A buddy and I were doing a paper on homelessness when we were at the University of Kentucky," Miller recalls. "We lived among the homeless for a while, and I'd never seen anything like that before. I got a calling from God to help people."
Neither Miller nor his 36-year-old wife is an Army officer. According to Annette Bauer, that's somewhat unusual; most Harbor Lights are run by Army captains or majors. Rather, the Millers are so-called envoys. "[That means we are filling] the same shoes as captains or any other officer but we're employees of the Army," Bill Miller explains. "We didn't go to Salvation Army training school, we're not ministers, and we don't get moved every five years."
Miller says his and Eydie's first step will be to connect with the homeless in Minneapolis. They not only want to meet and greet those who are staying at the center, they also hope to establish a relationship with the disadvantaged people who tend to spend their days hanging around Currie Avenue. "To save people, you have to treat them with compassion and respect," Miller reasons. "I'm not going to treat them any different than I would treat the governor or anyone else. I don't care if somebody's drunk or they've been on the street forever, I will go out and talk to them and they will know me very quickly, and you guys will know that I'm up there because I'll be out on the streets."
Marge Wherley has some hope that the Woodards' departure might lead to reform, but she thinks Miller's plans to invite the homeless in for a hot meal and a sermon is a bit naive, especially considering the depths to which the Harbor Light has sunk in recent months. "We're hearing that he believes that the facility should have less security," she says, with a been-there, done-that sigh. "St. Louis has a lot less, and I'm not encouraged by that."
Wherley is also going forward with a plan to move vulnerable women out of Harbor Light. "Things just aren't good, and I don't think it would be reasonable to expect this guy to come in the first day and fix it all," she says, adding that if she does find 100 beds somewhere, it will affect how much money Harbor Light gets from the county this year. "We wouldn't send anyone back in there until they could prove to us that they were going to be safe."
Of course, if the past is any indication, those hundred women, and the rest of Harbor Light's population, might not want to count on it.
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