Funds from a CDBG Public Facilities grant partially supported the construction of the new Pemi Bridge House homeless shelter.
Donna Lane, CDBG Consultant; and Kim Walters, Pemi Bridge House Manager; and Kate Ransom, WVFRC Interim Facilities Manager, recently talked to CDFA.
What was at this site prior?
Donna – It was a vacant lot. The Whole Village Family Resource Center (WVFRC) bought the site and they are leasing it to the Pemi Bridge House.
What role did you play in the Project?
Donna – I wrote the CDBG application and I now administer the grant.
Would the project have come to fruition if the CDFA funds weren’t available?
Donna - No. There would have been no money to do it. Without the CDBG funds there wouldn’t have been money to move out of where they are now. They (Pemi Bridge House) have fundraisers, but that money is also used for operations.
100% of the tenants will be low or moderate income. How do you think this will positively impact their lives? Have their lives or will their lives be improved?
Donna – Life skills will definitely improve. Their self esteem will be better off. Beginning at a new place like this they will be better prepared to move away from here.
Is there a demand for the units?
Donna – There are so few shelters in the area, so yes there is a demand. Many towns shy away from having homeless shelters, but the cost to the Town doesn’t really add up like everyone thinks it does, so Plymouth needs to be commended for supporting this.
How many bedrooms are in each unit?
Donna – At the former shelter, there were only three male beds and the whole upstairs is for women and children. So, no family units could stay together if they come in as a male and female unit. At the new building there is an adjoining area for situations like that, but they will all be single beds.
Estimated number of kids impacted?
Kim - Currently there are two part-time kids and five that live in the house. Last year we had nine kids and fewer adults.
How do you think Pemi Bridge House will positively impact their lives? Have their lives or will their lives be improved?
Kim – The quality of life will be improved. The former place was falling apart. At the new house everyone will want to take care of things and it will give them more privacy. I am sure everyone’s self esteem will go up.
What sort of services and training do you offer?
Kim – We do lots of programming. They (the clients) attend classes. Just recently some of our clients attended a class offered by Affordable Housing Education and Development (AHEAD) on financial freedom. It covered budgeting, home insurance, etc. Other classes are on parenting, we also do scrap booking – something they can focus on. If anyone is addicted they must attend weekly AA meetings and the Horizons addiction counseling program.
Everyone goes through a screening process to see what sort of services they will need. At the new place we have two computers with the internet and we received a grant from the NH Charitable Foundation to stock the in house library with applicable type books on cooking, budgeting, life skills, etc. We are looking to do job training through agencies and businesses to get those skills as well.
Do you offer a unique service?
Kim – Yes, very much so because at most shelters people have to wait in line at the door at 5 PM to try and get in and are asked to hit the streets at 7 AM to look for a job. Here people stay.
What is the demand for the homeless shelter?
Kim – In 2004 we had 3,971 bed nights and 72 people served. This includes 22 families and 50 individuals. We had 396 turn aways last year.
How has Plymouth impacted?
Kim – The new property was a non tax paying property anyway, because the WVFRC doesn’t pay taxes, so they didn’t lose anything on it. The Town Administrator was volunteering at the old shelter, so they were already vested in the project. The support from the community has been fantastic. At the new building we plan to invite people like past clients to come back for training on cooking, cleaning, nutrition, etc.
Has any other development or services been spurred by this project (domino effect)?
Kim – In the new building there is a community kitchen program which will expand out of this shelter.
Are there any questions I haven’t asked, but you think people would like to know about?
Donna – It’s amazing the outpouring of support for the shelter. People are donating things as well--even the subcontractors are bringing things in to donate to the construction of the project.
Kim - We are getting new furniture for our new place. A local furniture store is giving us a discount for all new beds. We have had three fundraising auctions for the new building project and raised a total of $110,000. At the WVFRC we are looking to set up a cooperative daycare, so clients of Voices Against Violence (a service offered at WVFRC) and Pemi Bridge House can go out and try and find jobs.
When the Pemi Bridge House was looking for a new site, they had an event and showed plans for the new building. Our former director at the Whole Village thought it would be a great match to have the Pemi Bridge House located next to us. He brought it to the Board of Directors and they agreed. If Pemi Bridge House had built something in town they would’ve had to take something off the tax roll. At this new location the Pemi Bridge House residents can walk to Hannaford and Wal-Mart.