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No jump in Longview shelter victims four months after Kilgore Crisis center's close

By Glenn Evans
Jan. 8, 2012 at 11 p.m.

KILGORE - The closing of Kilgore Crisis Center four months ago has not significantly boosted the number of abused spouses seeking shelter at a sister shelter in Longview, officials report.

The Kilgore Crisis Center, adjacent to Kilgore College near the Texas Shakespeare Festival building, closed Sept. 9 after state auditors discovered payroll discrepancies resulting in a roughly $130,000 debt.

Shelter Director Bob Caster said the financial blow was hard enough to make bankruptcy the only way forward. The financial discrepancies involved payroll accounts from 2007 and 2008.

Caster, a retired school superintendent familiar with budgets, took the job in 2010 and had been successful in his early months at drawing down a budget that was $180,000 in the red to within $70,000 of balancing.

Then, the Health and Human Services Commission audit found the older financial problems, forcing the 27-year-old shelter to close and seek bankruptcy protection.

"They want to sell it with everything in it," Caster said.

Since the shelter closed, Kilgore police have looked to the Women's Center of East Texas in Longview when they encounter people who need immediate rescue from abuse.

Lt. Roman Roberson could not immediately say this past week how often patrol officers refer abused spouses to the Longview shelter.

"We don't necessarily take them," Roberson added. "We refer them to the shelter (in Longview). They've kind of taken up the slack."

Shannon Trest, director at the Longview agency, said she assured the Kilgore department that Longview shelter services were available the day after the Kilgore shelter closed.

"Our biggest fear was that any victims might fall through the cracks in that interim period," Trest said. "As soon as I found out, I talked to the Gregg County Sheriff's Office and Kilgore (Police Department)."

The Longview facility has not experienced much, if any, increased traffic since the Kilgore shelter closed.

"Our shelter (population) numbers have not gone up much at all," Trest said, adding there has been a small increase in non-shelter needs devoted to Kilgore spouses, services such as basic financial training, legal advocacy and support groups.

"Our non-residential numbers have gone up about 12 percent, and that's only been since September."

The Longview facility serves six counties, with a new office recently opening in Henderson shortly after the Kilgore shelter closed. Former Kilgore shelter client advocate Kristi Prior runs that satellite office.

"We're very, very stable," Trest said. "It was heartbreaking when that program closed, but we moved quickly and hopefully with minimal damage."

She added she has heard of no one considering reopening the Kilgore shelter.

Randy Renshaw, a sales broker/associate with Coldwell Banker Lenhart Properties in Kilgore, said Wednesday that he's had no serious bites on the property.

The 10,000-square-foot, two-story building was the 1938 home of Rader Funeral Home of Kilgore.

"I've spoken with Kilgore College and spoken with a group of instructors who were interested in turning it into a dormitory for foreign students," said Renshaw, who also is a Kilgore city councilman.

"I know there are a lot of people who would like to see somebody purchase the building and reopen the crisis center. There's definitely a need for it."



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