Longform

Shelter Skelter

Page 7 of 7

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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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.