As Concord faces first winter storm, cold-weather shelter remains closed 

  • Concord's Emergency Winter Shelter, built by the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness, opened for the first time last December. It will open for the winter on Dec. 16. Courtesy of Ridgelight Studio

Monitor staff
Published: 12/2/2019 2:56:46 PM

As the first major storm of the winter season makes its way through Concord, the city’s largest cold-weather shelter will remain closed. Officials say the closure is indicative of a gap in care for people in the capital city experiencing homelessness.

“The lack of available shelter space is definitely an issue,” Concord Coalition to End Homelessness executive director Ellen Groh said Monday.

The Concord Coalition to End Homelessness’ emergency winter shelter, which has the capacity to house 40 total adult men and women, opened for the first time during the 2018-19 season.

The shelter is a “low-barrier” shelter, meaning even those with active addictions and felony convictions can sleep there during dangerously cold winter months. Guests are welcome to stay in shelter bunk beds from 6:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.

However, the shelter closed this year in March and will not open until Dec. 16, Groh said, leaving a period of months where people experiencing homelessness are left vulnerable.

Groh said the shelter cannot be opened early because they need time to hire additional staff, and schedule the staff and volunteers.

According to the coalition’s website, the organization is still looking for volunteers and has 650 slots to fill for the winter season. Volunteers are needed for an evening shift, to help check-in guests, for overnight shifts and morning shifts.

Temperatures, meanwhile, have been dropping. Concord received a few inches of snow Sunday night and was expected to see snowfall Monday night into Tuesday morning.

Groh said that during big, well-predicted storms, people in need are in some cases able to stay with friends or family for a short period of time. Others have well-equipped campsites with heaters, and they ride out the storm there.

People experiencing homelessness can also call 211, which is the statewide hotline, to try to be connected to shelters that have openings, or in some instances get a voucher for a hotel, Groh said. However, there is usually not enough shelter space for everyone in need.

“In truth, both resources are very limited,” she said.

“We definitely need a greater investment in affordable housing, and supportive housing, so that people can exit from shelters more quickly, which will free up space for others in need,” Groh added.

The Concord Coalition to End Homelessness is looking for the community’s help raising money for the construction of four one-bedroom apartments in downtown Concord for people who have been homeless.

The Coalition started a three-year campaign on Nov. 12 to raise $2.25 million, including $1 million from private donors, to keep their essential programming going and renovate an office building at 10 Green St. 

Out of the $1 million raised, $200,000 will fund the Green Street apartment renovations, where the Coalition plans to provide ongoing case management to tenants as they start their new lives and transition into stable housing. The Coalition’s goal is to ensure those who live in the apartments will pay only 30% of their income toward rent.

The remaining $800,000 raised from private donors will keep the Resource Center and the Concord Emergency Winter Shelter operating for another three years, as well as provide seed money for future projects.

The organization’s first Safe Spaces campaign in 2017 provided sufficient funds to build the Emergency  Winter  Shelter  on North Main Street and support all of its programs for three years.

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