The New London Homeless Hospitality Center has formally requested that the City Council make an emergency authorization to double the capacity of a new shelter space during the winter months.
In a letter to the Council, HHC executive director Cathy Zall requests that the shelter capacity be increased from 25 beds to 50 beds between Nov. 1 and March 31. The request follows a discussion before the Public Welfare Committee in June, when Zall raised concerns about a reduced capacity at a shelter opening on State Pier Road.
The request has been sent to the Administration Committee for review. It will be voted on by the full Council membership if it is approved in committee.
“With this short-term increase for the winter months, we believe we will have enough capacity to continue serving as our region’s ‘no freeze’ shelter providing all homeless adults who can safely use the shelter with a place out of the cold,” said Zall. “In our past experience, this capacity provides life-saving protection to vulnerable individuals and lessens the number of people making use of public spaces for overnight shelter.”
The HHC is renovating the former St. Peter and Paul Polish Catholic Church to combine its homeless services into one space. The congregation has moved into the chapel space in the church’s rectory, which now includes the HHC offices.
Currently, the HHC location on Jay Street offers daytime services such as mail and showers while the overnight shelter is housed in the St. James Episcopal Church.
The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the HHC's move to a new site in 2011, but with a capacity of 25 beds as opposed to the 50 available at St. James. The commission said the question of expanding the capacity would be left to the City Council.
Zall said other options available to meet capacity during the winter months include retaining some beds at St. James or opening up the police station lobby or other municipal buildings to take in the homeless. However, she said the State Pier Road location should be able to increase its capacity to 50 by using bunk beds.