Timothy McCarthy takes helm at Craig’s Doors in Amherst 

  • A guest cleans the cot he will sleep on for the night at Craig’s Place, the homeless shelter in Amherst. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Monday, August 29, 2022

AMHERST — Over the past 11 years, Craig’s Doors: A Home Association has provided cots, food and other services to homeless people who need shelter during the coldest months of the year.

While new executive director Timothy McCarthy says the so-called heads-on-beds effort has worked well to keep people out of the elements, and by providing the only behavior-based shelter in the region, Craig’s Doors is moving into what he terms a “deeper model” that will provide more services and a better opportunity to find people permanent housing.

“The greatest change, and my proudest area of focus, falls under case management for Craig’s Doors,” McCarthy told the Amherst Affordable Housing Trust Committee at a recent meeting, where he introduced himself to the community.

McCarthy, a Belchertown resident, recently succeeded Kevin Noonan, who founded Craig’s Doors in 2011 after two years earlier creating the town’s first warming place. The agency takes its name from the late Craig D. Lorraine, a Navy veteran who had stayed at the shelter and was known for playing marimba on the streets of Northampton.

Gerry Weiss, president of the Craig’s Doors board, said McCarthy was named to the position after Noonan left last spring. McCarthy began his tenure with Craig’s Doors in March 2021 doing direct care and case management work.

Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek said Amherst officials appreciate the work the agency does.

Since 2009, when the warming place opened in a portion of the First Baptist Church, the overnight Craig’s Place shelter, which welcomes guests under the influence of drugs and alcohol, so long as they don’t cause problems, has shifted to Immanuel Lutheran Church. The agency has also used the Unitarian Meetinghouse for its space.

But it is the hotel rooms where people can live more normally that McCarthy believes will most serve the needs of those in the community. Unlike the shelter, which becomes a magnet for people from around the region who come to Amherst to stay warm, only to return to the woods or streets each spring, the hotel rooms can help people transition into housing.

Currently, 36 guests are staying at 20 rooms at the University Motor Lodge on North Pleasant Street in Amherst, and 32 guests are staying at 20 rooms at the Knights Inn on Route 9 in Hadley.

This deeper model, McCarthy said, includes mental health care, housing placement support and financial literacy.

McCarthy said he is also spending time on rebuilding partnership relations, with organizations such as the Amherst Survival Center and Amherst Community Connections, and anticipates launching the first direct development campaign in five years.

As a consulting team helps revamp aspects of its work, Craig’s Doors is keeping many elements of its mission in place, including doing case management and referrals from a trailer in the parking lot behind First Baptist Church.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.