By JEROD CLAPP
Two weeks into the campaign, they raised about $8,000, which is close to three-fourths of their goal.
Jeff Cares has about $3,000 to go to pay off the sewer bill of Haven House Services Inc., which operates the local homeless shelter. As the donations continue to come in, Barbara Anderson, executive director, said she’s overwhelmed by the generosity of people
“We have been so humbled by this effort, people have been just wonderful,” Anderson said. “I can’t tell you how many people have just stepped up and given us $5 or $100. The grassroots effort has been phenomenal. It’s really been a wonderful experience.”
After a top-10 list of the highest delinquent sewer bills was released by the city’s sewer billing office in September, the city council passed an ordinance to have Indiana American Water Co. turn off water service for delinquent customers. Though Jeff Cares was originally founded to help victims of the 2012 tornadoes that ripped through Clark County, City Councilman Dennis Julius said he and others thought Jeff Cares could help with the sewer bill situation. Though turning off the water at Haven House’s Williams Emergency Shelter could cause safety concerns, he said another more serious effect could have occurred.
“I’ve donated to Haven House personally and through my businesses and I donate to a lot of nonprofits,” Julius said. “When I saw this need, it was right at the holidays and I’d just been [at the shelter] the week before where 80 something people living there who could be put on the street.”
Since the facility meets a community need, he said he thought it was a good cause to help them out of their troubles.
Anderson said it’s sometimes difficult to pay utilities because of how they structure payment from residents. It costs $5 a day for someone to live at the residence if they can pay. She said if they can’t, they’re required to perform community service.
Julius said he’s impressed with what people have given to the organization. Without a whole lot of effort, he said they’ve almost reached the goal.
“They just come in, it’s been very gratifying,” Julius said. “We’ve been on Facebook a little bit, but word of mouth, that’s about it. It’s nice to know that our community is this giving, especially at Christmas.
“It’s unbelievable. We live in a wonderful community.”
Anderson said after the money is raised, she hopes Haven House and the city can come together on a long-term solution to the sewer bills. She said if the facility’s water bill is about $500, the sewer bill comes in at about $1,000. With that in mind, she said she hopes residential nonprofit agencies could qualify for special rates on their sewer bills.
“It’s a relatively inexpensive way to show support,” Anderson said. “Take it down to about one-tenth of everyone else’s simply because there’s no money for them to give us as nonprofits. It really is a struggle for all of us to pay for our utility bills.
“There should be a special rate for every residential facility that houses more than 10 people.”
But she said in the meantime, others have stepped forward to help in other ways. She said one donor approached her with $1,200 to pay her next highest utility bill. She said Duke Energy was happy to receive that money from her.
Julius said after Haven House is taken care of, there are other ways to morph Jeff Cares to meet other needs in the community. He said he hopes the giving community will get involved in planning its direction.
“Once the sewer bill is paid, I think we need to get some sentiment out there about whether we help Barb [Anderson] in other areas or if we give to another charity,” Julius said. “I think the people who give money should have a voice in that.”