Price tag to provide homeless warming center jumps, not to exceed $95,000 for three months

Middletown City Council members unanimously approved during a special meeting Friday to allow a warming center for homeless to operate for three months in this vacant building, 1009 Grove St. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

caption arrowCaption
Middletown City Council members unanimously approved during a special meeting Friday to allow a warming center for homeless to operate for three months in this vacant building, 1009 Grove St. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

MIDDLETOWN — Even though the cost rose significantly more than first proposed, Middletown City Council unanimously approved spending up to $95,000 to provide a warming center for three months to the city’s homeless.

According to a staff report presented Friday during a special council meeting, the estimated cost of running the shelter for 99 days was $82,795. But Mayor Nicole Condrey said instead of having one employee for intake duties, there should be two.

Then Erica Norton, chief operating officer for The Mindful Healing Center, which will run the warming center, said the estimated $700 a month for utilities wasn’t enough, so the budget was increased to not exceed $95,000.

Norton said the warming center, after receiving its occupancy permit, should be open by the end of the month, and operate from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. seven days a week through April 30. That means the cost of operating the center will be about $1,000 a day.

Police Chief David Birk said the location at 1009 Grove St. was “the best option” because it’s near Hope House, a homeless shelter.

During extremely cold nights, Birk said 25 to 30 people have stayed at Serving Homeless Alternate Lodging Of Middletown (SHALOM), a faith-based organization that provided overnight accommodations and meals, and 15 slept in the police lobby.

Now he said, when officers find someone sleeping outside, they can be transported to the warming center.

The center has a men’s and women’s bathroom, but no showers, he said. There are no plans to feed the homeless, though council member Monica Nenni suggested churches could drop off drinks and snacks. Birk said the Dream Center, located near the warming center, provides a free dinner every night.

The clients will be tested for COVID-19, provided masks and sanitizer and won’t be permitted to smoke, drink alcohol or use illegal drugs on site, Birk said.

More than $43,000 will be paid to have one off-duty Middletown firefighter, certified in CPR and other first aid, working from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. for three months. Chief Paul Lolli said the firefighter will address any medical needs of the homeless and provide any firefighting duties since the building has no fire suppression, a requirement of occupancy.

Lolli said it would cost up to $1 million to install fire detection equipment in the building and it would take months.

City Manager Jim Palenick has said the cost of running the warming center for three months at 1009 Grove St. was about $45,360, plus about $17,000 to hire a firefighter. But those estimates increased from Tuesday night’s council meeting to Friday.

The total cost of the Grove location will be fully covered by the city’s special American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation of approximately $1.3 million that must be used to house the homeless or those in imminent threat of being homeless, Palenick said.

Tal Moon was excused from the meeting. On Tuesday, he said he was a former board member of Abilities First, the owner of the property, and he was concerned about a potential conflict of interest.

Council member Rodney Muterspaw, the former police chief, said he supported the warming center, though he was against it being emergency legislation. He said the issue should have been addressed earlier.

“We have failed,” he said.

Muterspaw also has heard stories about Butler County communities and those throughout the region, bringing their homeless to Middletown. Those communities don’t want to “take care of their people” so they drop off the homeless in Middletown “like stray dogs,” he said.

Condrey told those at Mindful Healing Center that she hopes they monitor those who stay there so they get off the streets and become productive citizens.

“That’s the goal,” she said.


WARMING CENTER THREE-MONTH ESTIMATED BUDGET

$43,065: Off-duty firefighter to work from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. at $58 an hour

$20,790: One employee for monitoring, security, other needs from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. at $18 an hour

$12,960: Two employees for intake duties at $18 an hour

$4,860: One employee for COVID cleaning protocol, washing linens, etc. at $18 an hour

$2,100: Utilities

$1,500: Rent

$1,500: Toiletries

$1,200: Extermination for routine spraying for bed bugs

$700: Insurance

$600: Washer and dryer

SOURCE: City of Middletown Staff Report

About the Author