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Norwich homeless shelter could be left out in the cold

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published March 01. 2013 4:00AM
Grant money may go toward more permanent housing

Norwich - This could be the last winter for the 10-year-old winter overnight homeless shelter, as the coalition of human services agencies that runs the facility hopes to redirect grant dollars toward more permanent housing for short-term and chronically homeless adults.

The Community Care Team, comprising several agencies that provide case management, medical and housing assistance to homeless people, outlined the plan in its grant application submitted Thursday to the community development program.

The team applied for the same $30,000 grant through the federal community development block grant program as it did last year to run the winter shelter, but would like to "divert" the dollars to housing assistance instead.

"We feel that the time has come to revert back to utilizing existing shelter beds in the area and to focus our efforts on diverting people from needing to use shelter and rapidly re-housing those who do require shelter," the grant application said.

Lee Ann Gomes, supervisor of social work services, said in no way does the plan mean that Norwich would leave the city's chronic homeless population to fend for themselves in winter. Gomes said numbers have been shrinking at the winter shelter - which she said was always meant to be a temporary solution - as case workers find housing solutions.

The winter shelter used to serve 120 clients per year and now serves about half that number. Last year, the Community Care Team found housing for 72 percent of the people who stayed at the shelter, with about 12 percent losing that housing and returning to the shelter.

The winter hospitality center at the Buckingham Memorial building on Main Street costs about $54,000 per year, funded through the CDBG grant and other foundation grants. Gomes said the team plans to submit similar grant requests to other funding agencies for the proposed transformation.

The program would use the grant money to find housing in shared apartments, rooming houses, supportive housing programs, including rooms run by Reliance House based in Norwich. Case management services would help people find jobs and budget their money to keep their housing.

For those who need temporary shelter at existing facilities throughout the region, the program would provide bus transportation and would assign case workers for them.

The Community Care Team was one of nine CDBG grant applications submitted under the social services category by Thursday's deadline, for a combined total of $216,200. Total grant submissions in all categories totaled $1.1 million, but program supervisor Gary Evans said the city is expecting to receive only $678,784 in the ever-shrinking federal block grant program.

c.bessette@theday.com

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