Monday, June 25, 2007

Two additional weeks likely for the Warming Place

Well, a bit of good news in an overall bad picture: Springfield's Old First Church, Court Square, has offered to let the Warming Place stay at the church after the program's forced closing on June 30.

Kevin Noonan, director of Open Pantry Community Services, which runs the Warming Place, has asked the city of Springfield for a two week extension at the program's current site, the York St. jail, but hasn't head anything back so he assumes the answer is no.

"This will give residents and staff a little more time to make a transition," Kevin told me. He expects to be able to keep the shelter going for another two weeks.

OPCS found out only last week that their contract to provide shelter from the state Department of Transitional Assistance had been awarded to the Friends of the Homeless shelter. The loss of this contract is directly linked to the city's refusal to give an occupancy permit to the Warming Place at the old jail site. The jail will be demolished as part of the city's revitalization plan for the Connecticut riverfront.

The Warming place has known all along it would have to move, and Kevin had been working on acquiring a permanent building. Financing for that building is now impossible given the loss of the contract.

The city hasn't even put the demolition contract out to bid yet, and it had to know that denying an occupancy permit would be the kiss of death for the Warming Place. But of course that's what Mayor Ryan has wanted all along-- that, and a zero vacancy rate in available shelter beds.

I'm surely sounding like a broken record by this time, but will another homeless person have to die before the city sees the impact of its policies?

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