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ROCKPORT, Maine — The only homeless shelter in Knox County has closed its doors with no notice, leaving area churches and service providers scrambling to meet the needs of those without a place to live.
The Mid-Coast Hospitality House closed within the past few weeks although the exact date and circumstances surrounding the closure are not being revealed.
“No comment,” said Samantha Mank on Monday at city hall, where she works as general assistance director for Rockland. Mank and her husband Gordon Mank Jr., had run the shelter since 1999.
Papers dissolving the nonprofit corporation were filed on Nov. 27 with the corporation bureau within the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.
Former Hospitality House board member Kathie Carrigan of Camden said Monday that she first learned of the closure recently when she received telephone calls from volunteers who were bringing cooked meals to the shelter and found it closed.
There are no signs posted at the shelter announcing its closure. The telephone number of the shelter is out of service.
Former Board Chairman the Rev. Walden Chandler of St. George said he only learned of the closure because he drove by on Dec. 1 and noticed there were no lights on in the building. He said he has spoken to other former board members and they have all expressed surprise. Chandler left the board earlier this year because his term ended.
Board Secretary Carol Mills said Monday she was unaware that the shelter had closed until contacted by the Bangor Daily News. Mills said she last attended a board meeting in March and had not been informed by the Manks.
Officials with the Maine State Housing Authority, which administers some funding for such shelters, have tried without success to contact the Manks, according to Deborah Turcotte, the public information manager for the state agency. She said MSHA has heard from people in the area about the shelter being closed and have left telephone and email messages with the Manks.
“We’re reviewing all our options,” Turcotte said Monday.
Turcotte said the agency understands there is a need for a shelter in the Midcoast.
The nearest shelters to Rockport are Waterville, Bangor and Brunswick, each are more than an hour away.
Anne Beebe-Center, who is working on a pilot program to assist the homeless in Knox County through Penquis, said she too has been unable to find out what has happened with the shelter but said the need is indisputable in the region.
“The need is huge,” Beebe-Center said.
She said local families in need of emergency shelter are being sent to Waterville but most of these people want to remain in their local communities.
The Penquis pilot program, aided by a grant from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development involves putting up families in local hotels during their offseason and providing them with education and job services. A study is being done on how to meet the local need, and that report is expected to be done by March.
Turcotte said the housing authority reimbursed the Hospitality House for qualified expenses. She was gathering additional information about when the last payments were made and how much was paid.
According to the last income tax filing by the non-profit Hospitality House, that covered the 12 months ending March 31, 2011, the shelter had expenses of $165,631 with revenues of $122,035. At the end of that year, the Hospitality House still had $298,839 in reserves.
The Hospitality House served 236 individuals for the year ending March 31, 2011, according to its IRS filing.
The Rev. Chandler said the Hospitality House could serve up to 15 people at a time.
The Rev. Peter Jenks of the Episcopal Church of St. John Baptist said he also had been unsuccessful in contacting the Manks and finding out what was happening with the shelter. He said there is a great need.
“You may not have to step over people sleeping on the sidewalks, but there are many homeless people,” the Rev. Jenks said.
Turcotte said one of the things being looked at by the housing authority is what will happen with the shelter.
The dissolution paperwork filed with the Maine Secretary of State’s Office was signed Nov. 26 by Joslyn Couch, who was listed as chairman of the board. All debts and liabilities of the corporation have either been paid or adequate provisions taken to do that, according to the paperwork. There are no lawsuits pending against the shelter, according to the dissolution papers.
The nonprofit Mid-Coast Hospitality House purchased the property in October 1989. The 2,434-square-foot building, located on Old County Road in Rockport just over the line from Rockland, is valued by the town at $370,000.