[Hpn] Shelter Seeks New Home

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Tue, 20 Jul 2004 09:05:10 -0400


 July 20, 2004

Shelter seeks new home at airport



HYANNIS - It took years for advocates to open a "wet shelter" for homeless
people whose substance abuse and mental illness made them ineligible for
other types of shelter.
But it didn't take long for a wrecking crew to knock down the structure that
housed the Pilot House. Shingles went flying off the roof Friday. By
yesterday, an excavator was loading a truck with the splintered remains of
the little white house on Brooks Road.
"It's very heartbreaking," said Cheryl Bartlett of the Community Action
Committee of the Cape and Islands, which ran Pilot House.
"We take in folks that have been on the streets the longest and are the most
difficult to engage in treatment," she said. "We have people there who have
celebrated two months of sobriety for maybe the first time in their life. It
takes so much work to get somebody to take that step toward sobriety."
Eight residents were displaced last week after Barnstable Municipal Airport
officials said they needed to knock down the shelter to proceed with a
runway improvement project.
Although Pilot House accepted alcohol and drug abusers who couldn't get into
the NOAH shelter on Winter Street, Bartlett said most Pilot House residents
chose to "reach for sobriety."
"Every time you go into recovery it's a step closer to long-term recovery,"
she said.
The airport commission had granted several extensions to the Pilot House,
which opened in January 2003. Originally the shelter was supposed to be
razed by the beginning of last summer.
"Construction is starting right now," said Barnstable Municipal Airport
Commission Chairman Michael Dunning.
"It finally came to the point the work was actually commencing out on the
site, and utilities were being terminated," he said.
Bartlett understood why the building had to be razed."We wouldn't have had
the Pilot House at all without (airport officials)," she said. "They deserve
a pat on the back."
Now Bartlett said she is working to place temporary housing for the Pilot
House on another piece of airport property.
The most feasible plan seems to be reopening the wet shelter in a Quonset
hut or a portable house on an overflow parking lot at the airport.
Known as the Sullivan lot, the property is located near Wendy's. The only
access would be through Barnstable Road.
"I'd like to see it by Aug. 1," Bartlett said.
"Clean and sober"
One former resident of the Pilot House said he hopes officials find a new
shelter as soon as possible.
"They kept people clean and sober," Perry Bell said. "They kept people off
the street."
Bell said he left Pilot House after a one-month stay. "I lost my sobriety
and I left. I will be back."
A female resident of Pilot House was accepted into CHAMP House, also in
Hyannis. The other seven residents have "alternative housing arrangements,"
Bartlett said.
Since Pilot House opened in 2003, it has served 115 clients, Bartlett said.
Some people went into permanent housing and residential treatment and others
returned to the streets.
The most people the shelter has housed at one time is 13. Bartlett said that
with the closing looming, the shelter had gradually reduced the number of
residents to eight.
"We had sort of whittled ourselves down," she said. "We're trying to see if
we can't stay in touch with them, even if they're out on the street."
Pilot House workers hope that the residents keep in touch by checking in at
the Duff Center, an affiliated agency which provides health services and job
counseling for homeless people.
The Sullivan lot where Bartlett is interested in relocating Pilot House is
also being discussed as the site of a larger shelter project that eventually
would combine the services of the 50-bed NOAH shelter with the Pilot House
and Duffy Center.
The goal is to create a campus-type atmosphere that would be open 24 hours a
day, seven days a week, so homeless people wouldn't have to wander the
streets in the hours between breakfast and dinner.
Another goal is to provide job training and counseling.
Temporary solution
The larger shelter originally was slated for construction at the former
Mildred's Chowder House on Route 28. Objections from the Federal Aviation
Administration caused the town, the airport and advocates for the homeless
to reconsider their options.
One the objections was the proximity of the Mildred's site to the end of a
Regarding Pilot House, Barnstable County Sheriff Jim Cummings told Bartlett
her agency could use Quonset hut-typed structures used to house inmates in
Barnstable after the inmates move to a new correctional facility in Bourne.
"As soon as the inmates are out of here, we'll set them up," Cummings said.
He said the move to the new jail site has been postponed while the state
works with the contractors.
He said he hesitated to say when the inmates might be in the new
correctional facility, but one newspaper reported it could be August or
Bartlett and town officials are going to work with county maintenance people
on the prep work for the Pilot House site, Cummings said. "All of that has
to be done before we can set these tents up."
He described the tents as canvas stretched over metal frames. The plan is
for two tents and one trailer housing restroom and bath facilities to be
moved to the airport site, Cummings said.
Bartlett said she still is working over what regulatory approvals would be
needed to relocate portable housing.
Several weeks ago the airport commission issued a temporary license that
would allow CAC to move the Pilot House program to the Sullivan lot.
"We did all we could in order to assure that the program would proceed,"
Dunning said.

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