Knox County faces new homeless problem after shelter shuts down

7:52 PM, Dec 11, 2012   |    comments
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ROCKLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Groups that help the homeless in the Midcoast area are scrambling to find more beds, because Knox County's only homeless shelter has closed.  

Midcoast Hospitality House in Rockport shut down two weeks ago, without any warning to the state or local agencies. 

The shelter reportedly had 17 beds, and had been in operation for more than twenty years. But the Maine State Housing Authority --which provided most of the money to operate the shelter -- says the non-profit agency that owns it apparently ran into financial trouble. The Authority says it now considers the building abandoned, and is moving to take possession of the property and re-open the shelter. 

The MSHA says most of the board of the non-profit group resigned, and there is no organization remaining to operate it. 

The MSHA says it had scheduled a meeting for Dec. 10 with shelter manager Gordon Mank to talk about the situation, but spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte says Mank never showed up for the meeting. Instead, she says, he simply left the keys to the building. 

Now MSHA is moving to take possession of the property. Turcotte says they are hoping Mank will help speed that process along by signing the necessary paperwork to transfer ownership. If not, the agency will need to go through court proceedings, which she says will delay reopening the shelter.

Other local groups that work with homeless people say the need in the area was already more than the Hospitality House could handle. They're looking for alternatives, and hoping to join forces to create new shelter beds.  

Pinny Beebe-Center of Penquis and Rev. Seth Jones of the Rockland Congregational Church both told NEWS CENTER that Knox County definitely has a homeless problem. They say rural homelessness, is often hidden, unlike urban areas where people line up in the streets for shelter. Rev. Jones says this time of year, he gets calls "every day" from people looking for shelter.

The Courier Gazette newspaper in Rockland reports that shelter manager Gordon Mank's wife says they found other places for all the shelter residents to live before shutting down the facility two weeks ago. 


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