NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The only shelter in Middle Tennessee for teenagers suddenly closed its doors in the middle of the holiday season. The C.E.O. at Oasis Center said that it is a temporary pause and that they lost so many staff members that it was no longer safe to operate the shelter.
When Alexis Holmes was 13, she fell on hard times and turned to Oasis Center for help. “I really enjoyed my time here. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to do something big for them and give back to them,” Holmes said.
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Monday, as a way to return the favor, she held a winter coat drive and provided warm meals for the folks at the shelter. Feeding Caribbean, along with Catering Concepts, by Timothy and Jewell Winn, helped provide the meals.
“Being able to have a meal. And not just a meal but a real holiday-oriented, chef-prepared meal, that means a lot. That’s a gift in itself,” said Patrick Fitch, C.E.O., Feeding Caribbean, an organization focused on ending hunger on the islands in the Caribbean.
“I never run from my past. I always want to give as much as I can to this place that helped me,” said Holmes.
But Holmes also said she was disappointed to learn that the shelter closed over Thanksgiving—nothing but empty rooms.
“The hardest decision I had to make in 12 years,” said Mark Dunkerley, C.E.O. and President, Oasis Center.
Dunkerley said that five shelter workers resigned in October alone. “We lost all of our clinical therapists. We lost a director, a manager, we lost. I think we were down to seven out of 15 relief positions. We were down a residential overnight coordinator. And also a daytime evening coordinator.”
Out of all of the programs Oasis Center provides, Dunkerley said the shelter is the most expensive to run per person. It costs $650,000 a year to operate, with federal grants providing $200,000, and the rest from partners and donations.
“I don’t feel like the shelter is being mismanaged. I think it’s easy to sit on the sideline and say that. Our folks did everything they could to stay open. They sacrificed personal lives time and time again – weekends, evenings, to stay open. I think that’s a cheap shot from the sidelines,” said Dunkerley.
Dunkerley said he’s hiring staff now and is hopeful to open the shelter in January. And Oasis can return to its mission of helping teens recover, just like they did for Alexis Holmes.
“I do hope, here by 2023, we are back up and running. And it continues to be a place for those kids, youth, who need a safe place to go to,” said Holmes.