Nighttime shelter short of goal to open this winter

By Stephen Betts | Oct 08, 2019
Photo by: Steohen Betts The Flanagan Community Center in Rockland may be the location of a pilot overnight shelter program this winter, if enough funds are raised.

Rockland — The Flanagan Community Center may not be able to open as a nighttime homeless shelter this winter unless more money is raised over the next few weeks.

The Community Emergency Shelter Committee is proposing a pilot program which would provide a shelter for up to 20 people nightly from December through March in the community center at the intersection of Limerock and Union streets.

Representatives of the committee -- which is comprised of local clergy, community members and the Knox County Homeless Coalition -- met Monday night, Oct. 7, with the Rockland City Council.

Homeless Coalition Chief Operating Officer Whitney Files said the pilot program may not open this winter because the group has not yet raised the $70,000 it needs. The group said it has grant applications submitted and if those are received, another $20,000 would be needed by the end of the month in order for the pilot program to go forward.

If the money is not raised, the pilot program would be operated next winter, she said.

The Flanagan Center is being considered because it is centrally located and within easy walking distance of social services. The center has showers and bathroom facilities.

Sleeping mats, towels and blankets would be provided. A light breakfast is expected to be served before guests leave for the day in the morning.

Unaccompanied minors would not be allowed to stay at the shelter, but would be referred to the Landing Place in Rockland, operated by the Homeless Coalition.

The shelter would open at  8 p.m. The YMCA, which leases the building from the city for recreation programs, generally closes to the public at 8 p.m. The shelter organization would have the center cleared out by 9 a.m.

There would be a paid staff member at the center and volunteers would also offer services.

The Flanagan Center would be a pilot project with the long-range goal of having a year-round facility, the shelter committee said in August.

"Given the shortage of affordable housing in Knox County, and the need for supportive services to help individuals and families develop independent, hopeful lives, the long-term vision of this endeavor includes on-site supportive case management services. Consequently, this initial pilot will explore best practices to connect guests with a variety of agency-based case managers," the committee stated in its written proposal to the city.

Comments (7)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Oct 09, 2019 16:31

I agree with Stephen. Old County Rd. facility should be used instead. Logical solution.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Oct 09, 2019 08:12


Join their board or speak one on one with a member of it.. Have heard how that money will be spent or would not have made a healthy donation.

Posted by: karen dodge | Oct 09, 2019 00:44

If you rented a hotel room for $40 a night x the 20 people x the 120 winter nights you are suggesting from December to March it’s only $96,000. So how is a temporary project as this article is suggesting going to cost over $70,000 or more. There has to be a more economical way to service more people. Otherwise just rent hotel rooms for those in need. Im sure trade winds, ledges and other hotels would do a discount rate to help the homeless.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Oct 09, 2019 00:19

Amy perhaps you should re-read my comment and try to understand what I am saying.  I get that by suggesting that I want to "let elderly people sleep on the street in winter"  gathers more symphony for your line of reasoning.  I am however not suggesting that, I am simply saying that by spending $70 to $100,000 on a one shot deal is not the best use of those donations.  What happens next winter ?  Do we raise yet another $100,000 and so on and so on ?   Now listen closely, because I will say this again.  Hospitality house already has a facility which they could improve upon and once completed the funds would not need to be repeated.  Re: the "hundreds of people"  the article states: "the program would provide shelter for up to 20 people nightly"   Are you saying the hospitality House could not find room for another 20 people ?

Posted by: Amy Files | Oct 08, 2019 16:24

Oh no Steve. It doesn't sound like you have visited, researched, or are familiar with this organization. And it also doesn't sound like you understand what the emergency shelter will accomplish. It won't just be a shelter but another way to connect people with the services they need. And the Knox County Homeless Coalition doesn't just serve people through Hospitality House (the barn you are referring to -- which provides short-term housing and is limited in its capacity) -- but they serve hundreds of additional clients through their other services in order to assist them with getting back on their feet until they are, ultimately sustainable and living independently. The need for services isn't just an additional 20 more guests -- as you refer to them -- there are hundreds of people in need and more demand on any given night than what our area is able to provide. To suggest that this is a waste of money is to be okay with letting people -- sometimes elderly and families -- sleep out on the street or camp in the middle of the winter. I hope that's not what you are suggesting. That is, unfortunately, what will happen to some with no place to go if a shelter like this doesn't exist.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Oct 08, 2019 15:23

The money is there if God touches  people's heart to give to this worthwhile project.  Maybe it is you hearing that still, small voice. I did and I gave.  Only you know if it is YOUR call to be part of the solution.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Oct 08, 2019 08:34

I will say once again to the executive members of the homeless coalition, this is a giant waste of money that could be spent on improvements and additional housing space at the shelter on Old County Rd.  You have the hugh barn that could be renovated to accomatate 20 or more additional "guests".  You have a beautiful facility so why not fix that rather than blow money on payroll that will vanish at year end.  You will still have the homeless just no more money.  Your $70,000 would go a long way on heat and improvements for your existing facility and as I said to you three years ago why not construct several greenhouses so guests can work to grow food to eat or sell at the farm.  Let's think out of the box folks.

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