LaGrange council discusses need for women’s shelter

Published 5:30 pm Thursday, October 24, 2019

For the roughly three years since Emmaus House LaGrange shut its doors, there has been no designated place for homeless women in the city to go — with the exception of those who are also escaping domestic violence.

On Tuesday, one citizen requested the city’s assistance in changing that. Melsnease Render said that she has been working with women in the community for years, but she was frustrated by the lack of options for those women who need time to get back on their feet.

“I started working out in the streets with women and children back in ’95, and I’ve been working ever since kind of like, under the radar,” Render said. “I was really, really working with a lot of homeless young ladies, children that were homeless, took some of them in my home — me and my husband, Alonzo Render.”

There are programs available in the community to help women facing domestic violence (Harmony House) and men facing homelessness (Ark Refuge Ministry), but Render pointed out that there is currently no program in LaGrange that can help women and children who find themselves homeless for reasons outside of domestic violence. She said that she wants to help change that.

“I want to really, really work and do some things for the City of LaGrange,” Render said. 

“I know there are shelters here for men, and I know there is Harmony House and all. … What I’m trying to say is there is a need for a homeless shelter for women and children in LaGrange, Georgia. I want to represent LaGrange. I have taken people to Atlanta, taken them to Columbus, but we don’t have anything here in LaGrange.”

Council Member Willie Edmondson said that he had personally seen Render’s efforts to help the community, and he said that he could vouch for her. Meanwhile, LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar verified that there was a need for a women’s shelter.

“I believe this topic has been brought up several times, and we’re in pretty good shape as a community with Harmony House if there’s a woman that has children or a woman that is in a situation of domestic violence,” Dekmar said. “But, if they are not in a situation of domestic violence, we literally have nothing like we have with the Ark [Refuge Ministries].”

Members of the LaGrange City Council had read a letter from Render prior to the meeting, and Mayor Jim Thornton asked city staff to look into a solution.

“We just identified a gap in the service,” Thornton said. “Mrs. Render has brought that to our attention, and we know we’ve talked about this in the past when we’ve had other facilities, but I think we probably need to look for a way to [address this].”

Dekmar said that he would work with Render to find a solution.

Other items covered during the meeting on Tuesday included:

 4The LaGrange City Council held a first reading on an update to the definition of adequate shelter for animal services. During the work session, City Manager Meg Kelsey said that the update would make the ordinance easier for city staff to enforce.

 4The city council approved its nominees for the LaGrange/Troup County Hospital Authority.

 4 The city council called for a public hearing on a requested rezoning of 1702 Adamson Street from R-2 to R-3. 

The LaGrange City Council will meet again on Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Ave.