[Hpn] How about this a homeless campus?

William Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Sun, 21 Sep 2003 08:53:28 -0400


September 21, 2003
Homeless campus site best of few options
By CYNTHIA McCORMICK
STAFF WRITER
HYANNIS - The decision to create a "campus" for 24-hour service for the
homeless was fraught with difficulty even as it came to what appeared to be
a foregone conclusion.
As a deal was brokered last week that would clear the way for the facility
at the former Fish Landing restaurant on Route 28, Barnstable Municipal
Airport commissioners, who signed off on the agreement because it would
incorporate airport land, challenged people to come up with a better site.
Plenty of people thought the proposed center, which would bring shelter,
health care and substance abuse treatment for the homeless to one location,
should go elsewhere, and some influential people still do. But there are so
many factors so many interested parties need to consider they may have to
settle for the Route 28 site anyway.
Businessman Stuart Bornstein thinks a building in Independence Park's scrub
pinelands would be an ideal location for the buildings.
The industrial park offers plenty of room to expand, it's relatively
convenient to social services downtown and any homeless facility there would
be almost hidden from the public - and tourist - eye, which has been a major
consideration all along.
But there's a major obstacle, too, just as there was with many other sites
considered.
Most of the industrial park is within the jurisdiction of the Barnstable
Fire District, which has one ambulance and three rescue personnel per shift.
Fire officials estimate that a homeless center would increase the Barnstable
Fire District's emergency calls by a budget-busting 25 percent.
"We want to be busy," said Barnstable firefighter Richard Ogonowsky. But, he
added, the chief has fiscal responsibilities. Already, whenever the
Barnstable district sends its ambulance out on a call, off-duty firefighters
have to be called in to cover the station.
Cheryl Bartlett, who is helping spearhead the drive for a round-the-clock
residential center for homeless people, said there seem to be nearly
insurmountable obstacles to locating the center anywhere other than the Fish
Landing building, formerly known as Mildred's Chowder House.
"There were a lot of problems with all sites," said Bartlett, who is head of
the Community Action Committee of the Cape and Islands. "Now the question is
where, and Mildred's has met with the least resistance."
Keeping homeless facilities in downtown Hyannis is unacceptable to Main
Street merchants, who are thrilled with plans to move the NOAH shelter, a
health clinic and a "wet" shelter to the former restaurant building on
municipal airport property.
The suggestion to locate the homeless campus at Pufferbellies, a nightclub
near the train tracks, is potentially problematic because the building is a
historic train roundhouse, Bartlett said. She said plans to alter it might
arouse the ire of preservationists.
Another suggestion, to take over the Elks building on Bearses Way, most
likely would involve applying for zoning changes, almost certainly over the
objections of nearby residents.
"There are 200 units of abutters," Bartlett said. "Nobody wants us anywhere
near them, but 200 abutters is a lot of abutters. I think that would go on
forever and ever. It's a big NIMBY thing."
Last Tuesday, the Barnstable Airport Commission approved allowing the former
Fish Landing restaurant to be turned into a 24-hour shelter, job training
and health services center for the homeless.
"More perfect" site
But even though the vote was unanimous, commissioners asked that other sites
continue to be explored.
"Maybe we're challenging the greater community to get to work to find the
more perfect site," said commissioner Arthur Kimber.
Bornstein, who operates the Radisson Hotel across from the Fish Landing
building, said the industrial park would be a much better location.
"The (restaurant) site is too small for what all the agencies want to do,"
he said. "This is not just a shelter. It's going to be a medical facility
with close to 1,000 people a day some days I understand. They're people who
have a lot of problems. We take them in for the whole Cape and we stick them
in the middle of the business district.
"The problem hasn't been solved - we've moved it half a mile down the road
(from Main Street). These are not smart decisions for the long run. It's the
question of who screams the loudest is where it doesn't go. There's no rhyme
or reason. If the town's going to pursue (Fish Landing) there's all kinds of
legal ramifications that's the next step."
Bornstein said the Cape needs the homeless center, but he said social
service agencies are so thrilled with the Route 28 site they aren't holding
out for anything better than the town-owned land at the airport. "They're
grabbing anything that's thrown to them," he said. "Half a loaf is better
than no loaf. That's the thinking."
Bartlett phrased it differently.
"We agreed to continue to evaluate sites," she said. "You can look and look
and see if you could find something more suitable but Mildred's might be
gone by then. It was the site that kept coming back as the most plausible.
"While it isn't perfect and has opposition, it doesn't have the opposition
of any other site. Now that it's a real possibility we need to start getting
numbers to see how we fund this."
Availability advantage
One plan is to move different services into the homeless center in phases,
probably starting with the Pilot House "wet shelter," which must be out of
its current location on Brooks Road by March 31. The homeless campus would
be open 24 hours a day, unlike NOAH, which is just an overnight facility. It
would offer job training, education and health services. It would have 50 to
70 regular shelter beds and 10 wet shelter beds.
"With Mildred's, certainly one of the advantages is availability," said
Frederic Presbrey, head of the Housing Assistance Corp., which runs the NOAH
shelter. The shelter would be part of any campus plan. "There's key support
for Mildred's from the town manager's office, the airport commission, the
Hyannis Civic Association."
Presbrey said he and officials from CACCI and the Duffy Health Center will
evaluate what it would cost to improve Mildred's, the Elks building,
Pufferbellies and a building in Independence Park. "None of these things has
been ruled out completely. Each site has its advantages and disadvantages."
Hyannis Deputy Fire Chief Dean Melanson said safety officials advised
placing the homeless campus within the Hyannis fire district, the largest of
the town's fire districts.
"It's calls we're already doing here. We've had the NOAH shelter (within the
Hyannis district) since it's inception," Melanson said.
He said the Hyannis district has 12 fire and rescue workers per shift,
compared to three at the Barnstable fire district next door. Last year the
Hyannis fire district responded to 5,780 emergency response calls, of which
at least 250 were related to homeless individuals at the NOAH shelter or in
vacant buildings.
The Barnstable Fire District, on the other hand, handled nearly 1,000
emergency calls last year.

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