ROCKPORT, Maine — A little more than a year after it closed unexpectedly, Knox County’s only homeless shelter remains closed despite repeated statements throughout the year that it soon would be back in operation.
The board that will oversee the Midcoast Hospitality House on Old County Road has hired Nancy Fritz as interim director and has arranged for work to be done to the former farmhouse, which served as a homeless shelter for 13 years.
But Anne Beebe-Center, who is employed by Penquis in Rockland and works with the Knox County Homeless Coalition, said that the board won’t be ready to open the shelter until $150,000 is raised. The money would allow the shelter to be staffed appropriately, she said.
“Our biggest fear is that we open it and not have enough money to keep it open,” she said.
Homeless advocates have said on several occasions during the last year, as far back as January, that they hoped to have the shelter reopen within a month.
The board’s goal is to have staff available at the house 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Beebe-Center said. Previously she said the staff would not live there.
The board has hired a grant writer to try to generate revenue to allow the house to reopen.
Even though the shelter has been closed, Beebe-Center stressed that the organization has been able to help the homeless. Fourteen people have been sheltered at two local motels during the past year. Beebe-Center said that could continue but that the Midcoast Hospitality House would be able to serve more people and would provide services to allow clients to get back on their feet.
The Midcoast Hospitality House is licensed to serve up to 21 people.
“The shelter would also be easier for providing support. When people are staying in a hotel, they are isolated in their rooms,” she said.
There are now Knox County residents who are staying at shelters in Portland, Presque Isle, Brunswick and Ellsworth, she said. The reopening of the local shelter would allow those people to return and receive whatever service they need — such as education or career counseling — so that that they can get a job and find their own housing.
The Maine State Housing Authority, holder of the mortgage on the property, retook ownership of the Midcoast Hospitality House in January after the former operator closed it in November 2012. The housing authority has worked with the local homeless coalition to reopen the facility, leased the property to the organization and paid for a new well at the site.
Beebe-Center said that the homeless coalition has worked during the past year to develop policies and regulations for the shelter to make sure its operation would be a long-term success.
The board held final interviews for a permanent director last week, she said. It also plans to hire someone to help people find their own housing.
The nonprofit Midcoast Hospitality House purchased the 2,434-square-foot building, located near the Rockland town line, in October 1989. Gordon and Samantha Mank ran the shelter until its closure 12 months ago. The town has the property valued at $370,000.