Middletown council OKs spending $25K to ‘actively address’ homeless issue downtown

City also plans to add unarmed security guards downtown.

City Council voted to spend $25,000 on a six-month pilot program in hopes of reducing the homelessness in Middletown, particularly downtown where investors have complained about the issue and its negative impact on business.

Also, the city plans to add unarmed security guards downtown, a project that may be funded by Downtown Middletown Inc., said City Manager Jim Palenick. He said the cost of security and where and when to place the guards haven’t been decided.

He said the security firm would work closely with the Middletown Division of Police to ensure the safety of those downtown.

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At last week’s meeting, council unanimously approved hiring OneCity for Recovery, a Mason-based company, to work closely with the homeless population in Middletown. The cost will come from the city’s general fund, Palenick said.

Hopeline, enabled by OneCity For Recovery, will “actively address the homeless challenge” in Middletown, according to city documents.

Assistant City Manager Susan Cohen said the social workers can help remove barriers for the homeless, such as obtaining a valid identification, and find them long-term, stable housing. The pilot program would also help them obtain substance abuse treatment.

The agency will serve as “a short-term resource” and ideas may be explored and expanded to improve the homeless issue downtown, Cohen said. As downtown has been revitalized with more businesses and activities, owners have voiced their concerns to city council members.

Councilwoman Ami Vitori, who owns downtown businesses, said she hopes the data collected shows “what’s going on” in the community.

Hope House, a men’s homeless shelter, used to be on South Main Street, near downtown, but last year opened a $11.4 million facility at 1001 Grove St., several miles from downtown.

Hopeline will provide a point of contact for Middletown police or other agencies to utilize as a resource when working with homeless clientele, the city said.

At the end of the six-month program, Hopeline will review findings of what worked and didn’t work and provide recommendations for Middletown police to consider.

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