Town decides to expand Craig’s Doors homeless shelter

By Diana Alsabe

Flickr/Slacker Mark

Craig’s Doors, the overnight homeless shelter located at the First Baptist Church on North Pleasant Street in Amherst, will be allowed to add six more beds for women when its doors open this winter – bringing the total count to 22 beds.

After a 10-day decision period, Town Manager John Musante and members of the town’s Select Board decided last week – after making several visits to the facility – to grant the expansion to the shelter.

“The Select Board has made it clear that we are in support of the expansion of this shelter, but our primary concern in this is safety,” Select Board member Diana Stein said.

The facility, which is only open during winter months, provides shelter to the area’s homeless population without requiring a sobriety test. Because of a 16-bed cap last year, the shelter frequently had to turn people away.

“In the past year, Craig’s Doors has provided overnight shelter to 161 people,” Craig’s Doors Executive Director Kevin Noonan said.

The new beds will be placed in a conference room that is located in the church’s basement, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette. The other 16 beds will continue to be set up in the Fellowship Hall area at the facility.

Safety at the facility had been a primary concern for town officials, and Musante and others had raised safety issues with the building.

“It’s a behavior-based shelter, so we want to make sure there are appropriate precautions to protect guests and volunteers serving those guests,” Musante said. “We’re working to make sure those standards are being met, by maintaining lots of interaction with police and good dialogue and communication with guests and staff and volunteers.”

An updated management plan has been created for the shelter with a list of improvements the shelter must make by its Nov. 1 opening.

The improvements include adding another shower, installing a new sprinkler system and installing a new lock on the door of the conference room where the additional six beds will be located, according to the Gazette.

Diana Alsabe can be reached at [email protected].