GRANGEVILLE — Meadowlark Home two, a senior housing unit in Grangeville, will close its doors by the first of April — at least for now.
“We want the community to know this is not happening due to lack of need or finances — it is simply because we cannot find employees,” said Diane Walker, who, along with her husband, Bruce, owns the two side-by-side Meadowlark homes on N.W. 2nd Street.
The couple’s daughter, Molly VanDomelen, has worked at the assisted living/senior homes almost since they were built, 22 and 15 years ago, respectively, and now serves as the administrator, while Shauntell Funke is the manager.
“It’s really heartbreaking,” VanDomelen said. “We have the need, we jut don’t have the employees.”
VanDomelen said the current staff of nine all together has been stretched and the staff has dwindled from almost 20 down to the nine during the past couple of years.
“We cannot find people who want to work,” she said. “We aren’t getting applications, or maybe we will spend the money to hire and train someone, but then they will be gone.”
Due to state regulations, the homes require a certain number of employees at all times, including two on-site at nighttime.
“We have tried so hard to make it work, but we just cannot without more help,” she said.
Walker said there are two people on the waiting list right now, but Meadowlark cannot take them due to the staffing shortage.
Thankfully, VanDomelen said, they are able to keep all the residents they currently have in home number one.
“My boys grew up in these homes and the people here are family,” she said. “It is just heart breaking to have to close 13 available spaces and see those people have to leave their hometown or families and go on to Lewiston or farther away.”
VanDomelen said although it is always difficult for someone to have to leave their home and move into assisted living, the Meadowlark homes and staffs have made it a priority to be the type of places people enjoy living in.
“And most people end up loving it here,” she added.
Although they will continue to keep trying to hire and reopen the home in the future, they seem to be in the same boat as many businesses in Idaho County and the region.
Taco John’s has had to close its doors on Sundays due to staffing shortages, and an employee at Family Dollar/Dollar Tree stated, “We need reliable help! Please send people here if they want to work.”
Newly elected Idaho County Commissioner and Super 8 owner, Ted Lindsley, posted on Facebook, “I have offered jobs to at least 40 people myself, many who say, ‘I’ll be in to train tomorrow,’ … then never show up!”
Many who commented on Lindsley’s post feel the current stream of funding from unemployment has a lot to do with the unwillingness of people to work.
“… there is a deficit in the employee pool … many business owners cannot comprehend or are unwilling to accept the reality that many people made and are still making more money on unemployment and other benefits than they would if they were to work 40-plus hour weeks,” commented Peggy Blankenship-Sprute.
“Unemployment is meant to bridge the gap while you are looking for work, not incentive for sitting home,” Ty Reuter added. “I know many employers who pay good wages and treat their employees well who cannot find anyone who wants to work.”
“Sadly, the cost of living has far outpaced wages for many Americans,” Terri Allen said. “Workers are a precious resource and the foundation upon which our country operates. They must be valued as such.”
Salmon Rapids Lodge in Riggins closed due to COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, but has not reopened, and posted on its website, “Our hotel is closed until at least March 30, 2021. We are unable to be open due to a staffing shortage.”
Businesses throughout Idaho County have “Help Wanted” signs, and the Free Press has been told there has been little to no response for employment.