There are about 400 people each year who spend one or more nights at the NOAH Shelter. On an average night there are about 50 people staying in the facility. My guess, and it is only a guess, on an average night, and it does vary by season, there are about 35 people sleeping outside in the Hyannis vicinity.
For about the past 18 months, I have been meeting at least every other week as a part of a group (click here for more info) seeking to move the facility out of downtown Hyannis. The group has come together around a mission to provide expanded and improved wrap-around services for clients and to reduce the negative effect of homelessness on Hyannis businesses. Excellent progress has already been made by opening the facility during the day and developing policies and procedures which improve the quality, quantity and consistency of services. In addition, plans have been made for improved operations within the new facility.
For the past several months, the committee has been researching possible sites for the new facility mostly in the greater Hyannis area. Hyannis is the preferred area because it is the only place on the Cape where all services are within walking distance. In addition, successful permitting for the new location is more likely in the Town of Barnstable because the town wants the facility to move out of the center of the downtown area. One roadblock after another has hindered the effort, including federal regulations for any future funding requiring that the facility not be within 2,500 feet of airport property. Our search guidelines have eliminated all sites near schools and sites in or abutting a residential neighborhood. Recently, objections to at least one site that the committee has agreed on have come from town hall. There are still a couple of sites in play, but no likely site has yet been found.
The search for money to fund the purchase and construction costs is also underway. Eventually, we believe that funding will come from some combination of public and private sources.
This is and has been a very difficult process. What makes me think it might succeed is the high level of commitment of the committee members. What will stop the project is objections from those who want to see it fail because they either insist that the facility be out of town or that the shelter close its doors altogether. Up until now the HAC board has taken the position that providing this sanctuary for the neediest of our citizens is a “moral imperative.”
If our efforts are successful, services will be dramatically increased, including outreach, and the negative effect on Hyannis will be greatly reduced. I am sure of it.