Yakir Gabay Suggests: Attleboro moves closer to getting a homeless shelter |

Attleboro moves closer to getting a homeless shelter |

ATTLEBORO — Efforts to create a homeless shelter in Attleboro, which will include 18 crisis beds, rehabilitation services and long-term quarters, is moving ahead on two fronts.

The Massachusetts House of Representatives put aside $60,000 this week for its construction.

And if approved by the Senate and governor, it would be the third time money has been earmarked to help with the project.

In addition, a purchase-and-sale agreement has been signed for some property near downtown where officials intend to build the shelter.

State Rep. Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro, who proposed the $60,000 legislative earmark and is one of a number of people who have been working on establishing the shelter, did not want to reveal the precise location of the property, but said an existing office building will be torn down to make way for what would be a three-story building.

Hawkins said architectural plans have been drawn and fundraising efforts are under way.

He’s optimistic it will become a reality and fill a big need in Attleboro and the area.

Hawkins said the state recognizes that need by its cash contributions.

“This investment by the state is truly indicative of the needs of the vulnerable and chronically homeless in Attleboro and surrounding towns,” he said.

Construction of the shelter will help solve the longstanding problem of homeless men and women camping in patches of woods and under bridges in the freezing cold of winter and the heat of summer all around Attleboro.

“I think we can truly end homelessness,” Hawkins said.

His director of legislation, Tara Major, said the structure could cost as much as $3 million, so there’s still a lot of fundraising to do.

But, she said, about $340,000 has been raised so far, not including the latest $60,000 approved by the House.

BayCoast Bank, the state Legislature and LaSalette Shrine have all contributed.

A team which has been working on the project for about three years includes Northern Bristol County Assistance Collaborative and NeighborWorks, which is an organization whose goal it is to end chronic homelessness.

The board of a non-profit formed to build the shelter consists of Hawkins, Major, Matt Flanagan of BayCoast Bank, Janet Richardi, Coordinator of South Coast Regional Network to End Homelessness, and Steve DuPlessie, the former pastor of Good News Bible Chapel in Attleboro, who is the chairman.

Major said fundraisers, including grant applications, are in the works.

“We have a project manager who is an expert in acquiring funds from state and federal programs and (forming) partnerships with local banks,” she said.

When the project is complete, the shelter will be more than just a place to sleep.

“It will include 18 crisis beds for intake, evaluation and wrap-around support services addressing the root causes of homelessness, which often include trauma, abuse, and substance addiction,” Major said in a news release.

That part of the shelter will be on the first floor.

It will be managed by Catholic Social Services and funded with grants, Major said.

The second and third floors will consist of permanent housing units overseen by a social service organization headquartered in Brockton called Father Bill’s & Mainspring.

That group’s mission “is to end and prevent homelessness in Southern Massachusetts with programs that provide emergency and permanent housing and help people obtain skills, jobs, housing, and services,” according to its website.

State Rep. Adam Scanlon, D-North Attleboro, co-sponsored Hawkins’ amendment seeking the $60,000.

Ways & Means Committee Chair Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, D-Boston, also supported it as part of a larger social service goal.

“In times of need, people rely on the services that the government provides,” Michlewitz said in a news release. “Vital areas like housing stability, food security, education funding, and combating the growing concerns surrounding domestic violence and substance addiction, are all areas we prioritize in this budget.”

George W. Rhodes can be reached at 508-236-0432.

Billy Xiong

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