State plans to reopen homeless shelter
Rockport — The Maine State Housing Authority hopes to have the Mid-Coast Hospitality House homeless shelter in Rockport open again by the end of the year, spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte said Dec. 14.
The need for the shelter to serve the region is urgent because 15 families are seeking housing now, she said. The state is concerned too due to the cold winter weather.
Representatives from the state met Dec. 10 with Gordon Mank Jr., who has been managing the shelter with his wife, Samantha Mank, since 1999. The housing authority is in the process of taking possession of the building.
That issue is complicated to some extent because the building has been owned by the nonprofit organization Mid-Coast Hospitality House, which dissolved itself Nov. 27, according to the Secretary of State's office.
The state is now tracking down former members of the shelter's board to sign off on the transfer of ownership.
Turcotte said the state first became aware of the closing when it received a notice that the insurance for the property had lapsed. She said the housing authority was not notified by the managers of the shelter, the Manks, which she said was unusual.
"They receive their funding from us," she said. "They have a mortgage on the house with us."
Turcotte said the state would have liked a phone call on this. Had it been handled that way, she said there would not have been nights when people could not get a bed at the shelter.
Board members at one point included Chairwoman Joslyn Couch of Rockland, Dan Brown, Cathy Carrigan, Patrick Mank, Megan Harrington, Walden Chandler, Carol Mills and Thomas Luttrell.
The Rev. Walden Chandler of First Baptist Church in St. George said he served on the board until March when his term ended. He said things were going well when he left. He said the first he knew of the closing was when he drove by the house and saw the lights were all out round Dec. 1. He said he has no knowledge of plans to dissolve the organization.
Samantha Mank said Dec. 14 that she and Gordon Mank were employees of the shelter working for the nonprofit's board of directors. It is the board members who have the authority to close the shelter or turn it over to new managers.
"I can't sign a thing," she said.
Mank said she told the board in 2010 that she planned to step down by March 2014.
"Everyone knew that," she said.
She said her reason for leaving also involves a medical condition, but she has asked for privacy as to the specifics.
In 2012, she said members of the board began to resign, saying in some cases simply that their term was up.
Luttrell said he was a member of the board for about two years and left the board in summer 2012. He said he left because he felt they needed someone with more time and who could be more active on the board than he was.
He said when he first came on the board, the Manks had told him their time was "winding down."
He said the board was waiting until closer to the Manks' actual departure date to find someone to take their place. In the end, he said the Manks reached out to some area churches to find someone interested in taking over.
Still, he said he was surprised by the news that it had closed.
"Hopefully someone picks it up," he said.
Other board members could not be reached for comment.
"I really loved it," Mank said. "...to help people change their circumstances, that's what I want to do."
Mank said she has been in contact with the state every day since the housing authority became involved. Turcotte said those conversations are going well and the Manks are being helpful.
Turcotte said the power and heat have been turned back on in the building.
At some point, the state will likely audit the Mid-Coast Hospitality House's finances, according to Turcotte. She added that shelters are audited regularly.
In the meantime, other organizations including Penquis have stepped up to help and put people up overnight in motels.
The issue of homelessness across the state remains one of great concern. Turcotte said she receives calls about people living in tents and under bridges as the winter weather is beginning.
News Editor Daniel Dunkle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @DanDunkle.