BROCKWAY — Wednesday, the pastor for the Just for Jesus Challenge Homeless Outreach Center fired back at the barrage of criticism leveled at him during a public hearing by the Jeffe-rson County Commission and Snyder Township Supervisors Monday.
The Rev. Jack Wisor, pastor of Just for Jesus ministries in Brookville and Snyder Township, said he didn’t attend Monday’s hearing because he has routinely answered the questions that were brought up.
“It wouldn’t matter if I answered them again; these few individuals don’t want to hear it,” he said. “They will not accept it. They simply do not want those kind of people in their township.”
Had he attended the hearing, he said he would have placed himself in a situation of harassment, intimidation and unnecessary emotional stress.
He said one of the accusations to which he took exception was that the Snyder Township shelter was not adequately staffed and did not have any volunteers or certified employees to counsel and evaluate parolees and their psychological problems.
There is no licensed staffing required for a homeless shelter, Wisor said, and that Just for Jesus is a church, no different than any other church.
“We have spiritual counseling, and in addition, there are deacons and deaconesses, and we transport the residents to their appointments they may have with psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians or whatever resource they need,” he said. “We have to keep in mind that these individuals don’t necessarily need counseling or supervision.”
Individuals who are homeless and don’t have anywhere to go don’t require licensed counselors, Wisor said.
“All they need is a roof over their head and an opportunity to get back up on their feet,” he said, and that the only required counseling for a sexually-violent predator is he or she is required for life to report to Megan’s Law counseling in DuBois at Point of Light.
Wisor also noted that Just for Jesus is not a personal care home, and all of the residents must be able to care for themselves 100 percent.
“We are not a care home; we don’t require a licensed nurse on staff,” he said.
Criticism of the bathroom facilities at the Snyder Township shelter was also inaccurate, as everything in the facility — bathrooms, heating, plumbing and electrical systems — was brand new in 2002-03 when he first opened it to the homeless.
“I would not purposely open up a shelter that did not meet all of the codes that are required,” he said. “Over the 10 years that I’ve been doing this, local officials have already sent in every agency to inspect the facility. I’ve already been through all of that.
“Many times people attempt to misuse the codes to try and hinder any type of facility that cares for the homeless,” he said. “These people will try to use the codes to be NIMBY: They say, ‘Not in my backyard.’”
Since he opened his first shelter in Brookville, Wisor said he’s learned a lot about people, but said one thing he didn’t have to learn is that God’s church is a refuge and a sanctuary for all people, “and those doors should be open 24/7 for anyone in need. That’s what I’ve always stood on. When we begin to interfere with that, then we begin to interfere with our morals and ethics of human society toward each other. That’s what we’re seeing here.”
Many of the people who spoke Monday at the hearing are scared of the shelter and the people who are housed there, he said.
“I see that; I am a ‘light on the hill,’” he said. “I’m not hiding anything, and a few people chose to expose this. If we’re to take the other 209 offenders that are living in Jefferson County and begin to focus on them and where they’re at, we would begin to have fear there also.”
Wisor also had words for his biggest critic, state Sen. Joe Scarnati, of Borckway.
“I believe Mr. Scarnati is doing this for political gain, since Brockway is his hometown,” Wisor said. “I believe that if this ministry was located in any other part of the state, he could care less about it.”
Wisor also addressed the investigation of an alleged rape at the shelter, saying that had to deal with a mentally-challenged individual “who constantly used that accusation wherever she went.”
He also said that contrary to the theory that the ministry took a fugitive to a bus station for a trip to Arizona, police were immediately informed of his whereabouts, and 48 hours later, they never submitted a warrant.
“I knew where he was from the minute he left the facility, and the police knew it as well,” Wisor said.
It’s also not true that Just for Jesus is purchasing another property in the Snyder Township area, Wisor said.
“As a church, homelessness is homelessness; I can’t turn anyone away,” he said. “I did not make it a haven for inmates; the state did that.”