Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Amherst’s Craig’s Place may be forced to close doors

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(Collegian File Photo)

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will decide on Dec. 15 whether or not to reduce the state budget, which would cut funding to Craig’s Place homeless shelter in Amherst.

According to the Boston Globe, Baker is slashing budgets across the state to compensate for a difference between projected revenue and authorized spending.

Rebekah Wilder, executive director of Craig’s Doors, the organization which operates Craig’s Place, said: “Our earmark is for $200,000. For Craig’s Place, it is the sole operating budget.”

Due to fundraising efforts including a GoFundMe page, the shelter can run through the middle of January, or potentially even longer, before closing if the governor cuts its state funding, according to Wilder. As of Tuesday night, the GoFundMe had raised $8,853 of its $200,000 goal.

Craig’s Place is one of two homeless shelters in Amherst, unique in that it takes people in who struggle with substance abuse and mental health issues.

Wilder said, “Our shelter is one of only two in Western Massachusetts that takes people in whatever condition they are in when they arrive. As long as guests are able to be respectful to their fellow guests [and the staff], they are able to stay.”

The staff are specially trained to work with people under the influence or those suffering from mental illness. Wilder said approximately half of the shelter’s guests in a year struggle with substance abuse or mental health issues.

According to Wilder, Craig’s Place is essential to the region not only because it cares for those struggling with these problems, but also because it helps meet the need for beds for the homeless population as a whole.

“Last year, we served 200 different people,” said Wilder.

The shelter now has 28 beds after the town of Amherst gave it an additional six beds this year.  Although the budget crisis has overshadowed the donation from the town, Wilder said the shelter is excited to have received the new beds, which allows the shelter to serve more people every night.

At Craig’s Place, if a person sleeps there one night, their bed is reserved for them the following night.

“The majority of our beds, if you were here the night before, your bed is saved until 9:30 p.m. As long as you are there by 9:30 you get your bed back. That works really well for a lot of people.”

The shelter operates with a small staff every evening as well as a number of volunteers, some of whom come from the University of Massachusetts.

“Over the last six years, I have gotten to know a lot of the guests who come to Craig’s Place, and they are amazing individuals,” said Wilder. “Craig’s Place has become a home to them, and it’s hard that they are put in this position where that may be taken away.”

Elizabeth Wallace can be reached at [email protected]

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