A matter of shelter

Leaders, city seek options for homeless

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By James Niedzinski – Gloucester Daily Times

A day after three homeless people slept in a common area of the Gloucester District Court and Gloucester police station because they were temporarily banned from Action Inc. emergency shelter, a growing number of community leaders are asking how to create a reliable alternative.
From time to time, clients do get banned from the Gloucester shelter due to safety concerns such as threats or antisocial behavior, Action Inc. director Tim Riley has said.
When that happens, especially in subfreezing temperatures and snow-covered streets in winter, there is increasing concern for where Gloucester’s homeless can go.
While Grace Center serves as a daytime shelter, working out of the Unitarian Universalist Church, St. John’s Episcopal Church and Trinity Congregational Church on a day-to-day, rotating basis, homeless advocates and Gloucester’s clergy are looking toward other options.
“Basically, there is a lack of capacity,” said the Rev. Tom Bentley, pastor of Trinity Congregational Church and executive director of the nonprofit Grace Center.
Action Inc.’s Main Street shelter has only 34 beds available, and many of those are reserved for short periods of time by those who are in transition but working within Action’s programs to turn around their lives.
“We are concerned there is absolutely no alternative from the shelter,” Bentley said. “The clergy does not consider that an acceptable position.” While Grace Center operates three days a week, social worker Christine Bobek said the need is there for serving more clients. If the center could serve people five days a week, it would, she said. “A lot of the clients say, ‘I don’t know what to do without this place,’” Bobek said, adding that she knew the people who were taken to the Gloucester police station and courthouse early Tuesday morning to get a night of warm, safe rest.Bobek has served as Grace Center’s social worker since its inception in 2011. From time to time, someone gets banned from there, as well. Sometimes, it’s because somebody is intoxicated. Sometimes it’s because somebody makes a threat, but all of the homeless advocates said that problems need to be treated on a case-by case basis, as the safety of all parties involved has to be taken into consideration, as well. “Nobody wants to do that in this weather,” Bobek said.

She added that Grace Center’s policies are made