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Craig’s Doors to remain open

  • Allison Duddleston, left, and James Grogan, right, who are staff members of Craig's Place in Amherst, practice setting up cots beside Masha Kolomiyets, center, an intern, during a training session earlier this year at the shelter.



Staff Writer
Thursday, December 15, 2016

AMHERST — Amherst’s lone homeless shelter is ensured of remaining open through the winter season after the $200,000 state earmark supporting its operations was spared from budget cuts.

Rebekah Wilder, executive director of Craig’s Doors: A Home Association, Inc., said Tuesday that she learned her agency can soon sign a contract with the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development to receive the money needed to run the Craig’s Place shelter.

“It is fantastic news,” Wilder said. “It is such a relief for all of us.”

Located at the First Baptist Church, 434 North Pleasant St., the 28-bed shelter is the only behavior-based shelter in Hampshire County, meaning that guests are welcome to come for a meal, shower and a cot, even if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It annually serves as a place for guests to get out of the elements during the coldest months of the year, Nov. 1 through April 30.

But the shelter’s operations have been in jeopardy since its main funding source was frozen by Gov. Charlie Baker in November. Since then, the shelter has reduced staff, lowered salaries, set up a Go Fund Me page and found other sources of money to remain open.

Peter Wilson, press secretary for State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, confirmed that Baker didn’t cut the money. But it’s unclear when the money will be available to Craig’s Doors.

“We’re working with the administration for when the funds will be paid out,” Wilson said.

Even when the contract is signed, Wilder said there could be a lag time until money arrives from the state.

“It could take up to two months,” Wilder said. “We have to write up the contract and send it to billing.”

In the interim, Wilder said she hopes there is continued financial contributions from residents.

“Because it may take awhile, we need community support to get us through,” Wilder said.

The state earmark is part of $45.5 million for homeless assistance programs in the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development’s $505.7 million budget for fiscal year 2017.

The earmark for the shelter has been in place since the fiscal year 2015 budget when it was included by Rosenberg and State Rep. Ellen Story, D-Amherst. Rosenberg, Story and Story’s successor, incoming state Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose, D-Amherst, have all expressed concern about the loss of this funding source.

Both Town Manager Paul Bockelman and the Select Board sent letters to Baker advocating for him to not cut the money and to end the freeze on its release.

The board’s letter, signed by Chairwoman Alisa Brewer Monday, observes that the shelter “provides critical services that are both unique and serve a significant regional need,” and informs the governor that Amherst has shown its own commitment, previously providing funding and continuing support with contributions from the human services department and public safety personnel.

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