Published October 16. 2013 6:00PM Updated October 17. 2013 12:46PM
New London — The New London Homeless Hospitality Center opened its new facility in a former church Wednesday afternoon to the cheers and support of hundreds of religious and civic leaders, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and volunteers from across the state and those closer to home.
"It's amazing, right?" asked the Rev. Carolyn Patierno, past chairman of the homeless center's board of directors. But she wasn't just talking about the sparking new facility with its 50 beds for men and women, laundry and shower facilities, a day room with access to computers and telephones, and eventually, a health clinic and an eight- to 10-bed respite center for those discharged from hospitals or recovering from illnesses.
She was also referring to the 16 religious leaders from across the region who joined her in a prayer, "Blessed be this place and all who enter here." It was also repeated in Hebrew, Spanish, Greek and Polish.
Those battling mental illness, alcoholism and drug addiction need a place like the shelter to survive, said Malloy, who addressed hundreds who stood elbow to elbow in what will soon be the bedroom for 50 homeless men and women at the shelter at 730 State Pier Road.
"Without these facilities, we expect them to go it alone. But no one can go it alone. ... The most likely outcome here is recovery," Malloy said.
State Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, also spoke at the dedication.
Located in the former Sts. Peter & Paul Polish National Church, the new shelter was built with support from the state of Connecticut, as well as 30 foundations and individuals. Guests will receive comprehensive services at the new location, including health care, counseling referrals and housing assistance.
"I'm proud to live in a state that fills a compassionate need," said Cathy Zall, executive director of the shelter. "We are stronger when we care for each other."
The shelter's $800,000-a-year budget is supported by faith communities, state and federal agencies, foundations and private donations. New London, East Lyme, Groton, Montville, Stonington and Waterford also make annual contributions. The organization, which also runs a thrift store downtown, has 18 paid staff, including eight or nine full-time positions. Volunteers also are a large part of operation.
An overnight shelter at St. James Episcopal Church and the daytime hospitality center at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, both in downtown New London, will close with the opening of the new center.
On Wednesday, the former rectory of Sts. Peter and Paul Polish National Church, which has been renovated into offices, was dedicated as the Father Emmett Jarrett Hospitality Center.
The late Emmett Jarrett, an Episcopal priest and champion of the homeless, helped start the shelter in 2006. A plaque was also dedicated to Frank Loomis Palmer, whose foundation, established 70 years ago, contributed numerous grants to the organization over the years. The Palmer Fund and Jarrett's estate are two of the largest supporters of the project, center officials said. The state also contributed $500,000 toward the $1.2 million project.