Shelter Skelter

The Open Door is supposed to be a haven for battered women. Instead, the operators have wasted much of their energy--and money--abusing one another.

Cain is trained in chemical-dependency counseling. Deane is a real estate agent.

Cech-Soucy says the women failed to show up for work for days, then demanded their jobs back. She won't give them back.

Cain and Deane returned to the shelter recently to plead with Cech-Soucy for their jobs. She wouldn't budge.

Deane says Cech-Soucy threw a temper tantrum. "She was screaming at the top of her lungs. Now, for a domestic violence shelter, I'm sorry, but that's just totally unacceptable."

Cain says, "I guess we felt as battered as the women who were there to be healed." The women say they never saw any evidence that Rounding had done anything wrong.

"One of the things I'll say about Audrey is that she tried," Cain says.
Both women have filed workers' compensation claims. Deane says, "I can't sleep. I have lost 15 pounds in the last two weeks. I have been really unable to focus."

Cech-Soucy has a separate bone to pick with Deane. The old shelter on Brill Street was sold to Deane while she was employed by The Open Door under Rounding's direction. Deane took over the mortgage and agreed to a $5,000 down payment, to be made in $300 installments. She's up to date on mortgage payments, but not the down payment.

Deane refuses to pay the down payment until she's happy with the way the shelter is run. She says, "I have a real problem with this shelter. The way that they manage their money, I feel like this money's going to go into Marcia's pocket. I'd rather take the money I owe them and divide it around among the women."

A few weeks ago, the shelter's founder, Lola Laswell-Daniels, came to Phoenix from Payson for a firsthand look at the shelter and its operations. Evelyn Henke, who had quit as The Open Door's accountant in April, went along.

They walked into the shelter, and Laswell-Daniels made what she thought was a generous offer. She told Cech-Soucy that she was willing to return as board president, and that Susan White, Lorna Harvey and Henke were willing to come back to the shelter as volunteers.

Cech-Soucy says Laswell-Daniels kicked the door with her cowboy boot and told her, "Get your stuff and get out, sister."

Cech-Soucy told them to leave.
When they didn't, she called the police.
Laswell-Daniels and Henke left.

Laswell-Daniels says she wants to get involved in the shelter again because "people that have donated want to know what has happened to money given to the shelter after January. I can't tell them. I don't know. But they're coming to me. And I have a sense of responsibility to them."

Henke is annoyed that she devoted four years of her life to The Open Door Shelter--for this.

She says, "I don't think the people who are running it now should be running it. They know nothing about it. They're a bunch of idiots."

For all the turmoil of the past months, The Open Door Shelter is a peaceful place on a recent Friday afternoon. Cech-Soucy strolls through the complex, pointing to where the clients will have a community garden and where she hopes to set up a quiet patio for the staff in the back.

Cech-Soucy has kept her original desk. Rounding's office is empty. "I didn't want her office--I thought it had cooties," she says, giggling. She's just hired a woman who will serve as a social services coordinator. She expects to get the staff up to five and hold it there. Everyone will be paid $7 an hour, except for Cech-Soucy, who will remain at $8.50.

In the past weeks, the shelter's checking account has dropped as low as $1,000, but Cech-Soucy has turned the database over to a professional fund-raising organization and hopes cash will come in soon. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and she figures that outrage over O.J. Simpson's acquittal should be good for some extra donations.

The thrift store is still closed--landlord disputes. Cech-Soucy says the shelter has a line on a new site for the thrift store. She's investigating the possibility of renting space from Jan Ashford, board member.

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Lola real names are Lazwell, Caraffa, Daniels and another name that is Mexican. She is a pathological liar. Most everything I got donated for auction from Ortega's in Scottsdale, Az. (Like KACHINAS) that are in her china cabinet. including furniture and kitchen items. She was married to Al Caraffa and lived in Phoenix. She had filed for divorce and was having divorce papers served on him, but called the atty. to stop the paper as she was meeting him for dinner and he was electrocted in her house. She took everything that was worth money. She and her next husband. Mr. James Daniels. She is a bully and no one liked her. Now, she goes to church every day and helps serve mass. Mr. James Daniels son does not know how many marriages she has had..I asked her to see the financials and she said no. That was the last day I worked for her.

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