New homeless center ‘represents hope’ for residents, community

With 11 ceremonial shovels of dirt, the face of homelessness in Middletown started to be unearthed Thursday morning.

A ground-breaking was held outside a vacant building where Hope House Mission men’s emergency shelter and permanent supportive housing apartments will be operational by the end of 2019, House House executives announced.

“It’s an extremely important day for the Middletown community and the people we serve,” said Carla Messer, Hope House board chairwoman.

The new Hope House will offer 50 beds, 10 more than it has at its current facility on South Main Street. There also will be 30 one-bedroom apartments, administrative and counseling offices, a chapel, recreation room, dining room and health provider rooms for visiting nurses and doctors.

By December 2019, the homeless shelter operations will move from 34 S. Main St. — a 150-year-old building — to the new facility at 1001 Grove St. Messer said the shelter space on Main Street has been “woefully short” for many years.

“We are out of space,” she said. “The building is in disrepair. It doesn’t meet our needs.”

The estimated cost of the new homeless shelter is $11.2 million, and executives said $9 million has been secured though state grants and donations.

Messer said he understands not everyone wants a homeless shelter in their community.

“We’re used to ‘not-in-my-backyard’ type of sentiments,” Messer said after the ground-breaking. “The truth is the homeless are already here. The best thing we can do as a community is to look for ways to serve the population that we have so that we all can thrive. So everyone has a chance to be successful. We are not looking to draw more homeless into the community, but we want to serve those who live here and call Middletown home.”

One of those people is Robert Dawson, 49, who moved into Hope House in November 2017 after losing his job and his home was foreclosed. He’s impressed by the plans for the new facility.

“It will be very good for everybody,” Dawson said.

Tim Williams, executive director of operations at Hope House, said the building on Grove Street represents “a lot of years of dreaming, praying, planning and setting a vision” for the new development.

“It represents hope for future residents and for this community,” he said.

State Sen. Bill Coley said any society is judged by its “most vulnerable citizens,” including the homeless.

“Some people who will be residents here may have stumbled in their lives,” he said. “But this facility will help them get back on track.”

Middletown Mayor Larry Mulligan, a former member of the Hope House board, called the new building part of “God’s plan” and a culmination of many years of effort. Mulligan said he expects the services offered at the center to “really transform lives and do some great things in Middletown.”

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