Baker administration frees up $200,000 for Amherst shelter

Staff Writer
Friday, January 05, 2018

AMHERST — About $200,000 for the homeless shelter Craig’s Place that had been held up by Gov. Charlie Baker has been released, Sen. Stanley Rosenberg said Dec. 28.

The Amherst Democrat said he received the information in a text from Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash.

“Given the cold weather, the text said, they released the money this afternoon,” Rosenberg said. “All’s well that ends well.”

“We are really glad to have this money and now we can operate all winter now without worry,” said Gerry Weiss, a board member and clerk for Craig’s Doors, the nonprofit that operates Craig’s Place.

The earmark for the shelter has been in place since fiscal 2015 budget when it was included by Rosenberg and retired Rep. Ellen Story, D-Amherst, but it was frozen this year and last year by Baker over funding concerns. Advocates of the overnight homeless shelter had worried the shelter would close if Baker did not release the money.

“These are really deadly temperatures right now,” Weiss said.

State Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose, D-Amherst, and Newton Mayor Setti Warren had previously expressed their support for the shelter, and dismay with the governor for freezing the funds.

“The guests who stay at Craig’s Doors would have incredible difficulty finding a warm place to stay at other area shelters, which are too often full and will turn away guests who have been using,” Goldstein-Rose wrote in a letter sent to Baker on Dec. 19.

The 22-bed facility at First Baptist Church, 434 North Pleasant St., is one of just two behavior-based homeless shelters in western Massachusetts. Residents are admitted based on compliance with rules regardless of whether they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Typically, the shelter opens in November and closes at the end of April, but without the funds, the shelter may have had to close much sooner.

The state money makes up a large portion of the operational budget for Craig’s Doors, which also receives about $15,000 from the United Way, and other money from private donations. Without the funding, the shelter likely would have sought money from the town, Weiss said.

A similar situation transpired around the same time last year during another cold spell when the state released the funds amidst worries the shelter could close.

“We would love to not have to do this every year but right now this is it,” Weiss said. “This is the process.”

Sarah Robertson can be reached at srobertson@gazettenet.com