ROCKPORT, Maine — Ten months after Knox County’s only homeless shelter abruptly shut down, the doors are expected to open in the next few weeks.
The reopening of the Midcoast Hospitality House is well behind what its supporters had originally planned but when it opens later this month it will offer more services and oversight than under its previous operation.
“It will be very different,” said Anne Beebe-Center, who has been one of the local organizers working to reopen the facility.
The Mid-Coast Hospitality House closed in late November. The operator of the shelter — Gordon Mank Jr. — gave no notice to the Maine State Housing Authority or local social service agencies before shutting down. The housing authority oversees funding for shelters and also held the mortgage on the property.
The independent state agency took back ownership of the property on Jan. 17 and has since been working with a group of advocates for the homeless — the Knox County Homeless Coalition. The coalition had hoped to get the shelter back open by February.
Deborah Turcotte, spokesperson for the housing authority, said Monday there was a lot of work to be done before the shelter could be reopened. She said the housing authority has signed a lease with the organization and that the local coalition has been raising money and purchasing supplies.
The authority, as the owner, has put in a new well for water, she said.
The coalition has advertised for a director to run the shelter and final interviews for the position were being done this week, Beebe-Center said Wednesday. As soon as that person is hired, the shelter can reopen. She said it could be a few more weeks if the new director has to give notice to a current employer.
She said there was a lot of work to get the facility physically ready, but also to develop policies and programs.
“This was not a turnkey operation,” Beebe-Center said.
The shelter will have 21 beds and will be staffed 24 hours, seven days a week, she said. The staff will not live there. The shelter had previously housed up to 15 people and the operator and his family lived in one part of the former farmhouse.
There will be a resource center at the house which will offer programs to people staying there to help them. Those services will include help in getting a general education development certificate and career assistance. A care plan will be developed for each person staying at the shelter.
“There are reasons why they are homeless and we want to address those,” Beebe-Center said.
While the Hospitality House has been closed, there have been places provided for people without homes, according to both Turcotte and Beebe-Center. During the winter, two motels in Rockport were used to house people, and during the summer, one of those motels continued to be used. Also, two families who were put up at a local campground during the summer. The local community action program — Penquis — ran the pilot program in which people were housed at motels.
The nearest formal shelters to Knox County are in Brunswick, Waterville and Bangor — all more than an hour’s drive from Rockland and Rockport.
MSHA purchased the 2,434-square-foot Hospitality House, located near the Rockland town line, in October 1989.
Beebe-Center praised the assistance that Maine State Housing has provided in getting the shelter ready for reopening.