Knox County's homeless shelter, which closed unexpectedly last November, is expected to reopen by the late summer or early fall under new leadership and with a new vision.

Mid-Coast Hospitality House will be a 24-hour-per-day operation with three or four full-time staff members and volunteers, according to Helen Rogers of Owls Head.

Rogers, along with a number of community, nonprofit and church leaders, has joined the Knox County Homeless Coalition. The organization has been working to secure state funding, grants and local donations to support a reinvigorated shelter to serve the needs of Knox, Lincoln and Waldo counties.

"It's something we're passionate about," she said. During an internship working with those at risk, she said she saw entire families including children and pets living in vehicles. Homeless children are more at risk for dropping out of school, substance abuse and problems with the law. "Housing is the most basic necessity," she said.

The shelter will have about 18 beds including an area specifically set aside for mothers with children and a separate area for men.

In addition to providing shelter and food for area homeless, the new shelter will have day programs aimed at providing the services people need to become self-sufficient, Rogers said. Those who use the shelter will be able to work toward their GED diplomas. It will also work with single parents and help match clients with needed health and mental health services. The shelter will provide case management services and work with the Maine State Housing Authority to secure Section 8 housing and vouchers, Rogers said.

Rogers said the shelter will have daycare available for children, which will make it easier for single mothers and fathers to take advantage of day programs aimed at helping them become self-sufficient.

Without shelters and services to get people off the street, they end up being arrested and taken to jail or becoming an ongoing burden with no way out of the homelessness cycle. Rogers argues that can end up costing the taxpayers more than providing education and a way out.

"It's saying, I believe in you," she said. "I believe you can be successful and take care of yourself and I'm going to give you the tools to do it."

Area organizations including the Rockland CareerCenter, Mid-Coast School of Technology, area churches and New Hope for Women are working with the coalition.

While the shelter has been closed, the coalition has helped provide a "shelter without walls," making sure families in need have housing in area hotels. In the summer months the hotels need the rooms for the tourist season and it is harder to find housing.

The coalition will be hiring staff and creating a volunteer program which will include trained interns.

Rogers said the way the shelter operates will be very different from the way it was run in the past.

How to help

The coalition is raising money to fund the house, in part with an ongoing bottle drive. Bottles can be dropped off at 24 Weskeag Road in Owls Head. Rogers also is planning a car wash.

Rockland Kiwanis Club will hold a Cupcake Challenge May 11 at Rock Harbor Restaurant, 416 Main St. in Rockland, from 3 to 5 p.m. A wide variety of cupcakes will be available from 30 of the best bakers in the Midcoast. They will compete in categories for Best-Tasting Frosting, Best-Tasting Cake, and Best Decorations and Appearance. Samples will be available to all who attend. Tickets are $10 per person and can be purchased from any Kiwanis member in advance or at the door. Children 2 and younger are free. All proceeds benefit Knox County Homeless Coalition.

For more info or to enter the contest, call Katie Tarbox at 596-0000 or email papercrafting@myfairpoint.net.

Pinny Beebe-Center of Penquis CAP is chairman of the Knox County Homeless Coalition Board of Directors. Also on the board are Susan Barnard of One Stop Career Center, Kathleen Morgan of New Hope for Women, Richard Norman, Annette Burns of Youth Homeless Outreach and Penquis, Jack Carpenter of Knox Interfaith Teen Safe Haven, the Rev. Seth Jones of the Rockland Congregational Church, Amy Koehling of Home Counselors, Amy Libby of Harbor Family Services, Cindy Look of Department of Health and Human Services Public Health, Hannah Ives and Meg Klingelhofer of New Hope for Women, Linda Pieper of Area Interfaith Outreach Food Pantry and Tina Sanders of Tedford Housing.

Daniel Dunkle can be reached at ddunkle@courierpublicationsllc.com or 594-4401 ext. 122.