Second Emergency Homeless Shelter To Open In City

The city is preparing for a second temporary emergency shelter to be opened Friday in conjunction with the Mental Health Association.

Mayor Eddie Sundquist told The Post-Journal the city has officially secured the $194,000 it was awarded from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help open two emergency shelters in Jamestown.

Sundquist said the shelter at Joy Fellowship Church, 515 E. Seventh St., is currently “open and active.”

“They have about eight to 10 beds and they have been open for the last couple of weeks,” he said.

According to Sundquist, the emergency shelter at Joy Fellowship Church has had around five or six individuals per night that they have been open. He also explained that the shelter is starting to be “pretty busy” when temperatures are low.

An additional emergency homeless shelter is expected to open on Friday — managed, in part, by the Mental Health Association.

“That should be opened up on Friday,” Sundquist said. “There are some additional challenges with the space there, so we’ve been working with the Mental Health Association and Community Helping Hands to help make sure that we have everything we need in that space and that space is prepared to accept individuals.”

The second emergency shelter will be located at the Gateway Center on Water Street.

Sundquist emphasized that the two emergency homeless shelters are only for the state’s “Code Blue” program. He explained that whenever the temperature is under 32 degrees, individuals are “eligible” for emergency sheltering; however, the two emergency shelters are not long-term homeless shelters and can only be utilized when the temperature is below 32 degrees.

The process of opening the two emergency homeless shelters for the winter has taken longer than originally anticipated. Despite the city’s urgency to alleviate the issue of homelessness in the city during the winter months, the process of obtaining funding, preparing the sites of the two shelters and officially opening the emergency shelters has extended into the new year.

“What we ended up finding is that we were awaiting federal funding in order to open up the shelters and we are awaiting on additional state funding as well,” Sundquist said. “The federal funding has already come through, so we’ve been able to help establish those shelters.”

While the city administration was waiting for federal funding to open the first of the two emergency “Code Blue” shelters, Sundquist said a recent event caused the city to have to open the Joy Fellowship Church shelter sooner than they had planned on. He explained that during a night of severe weather several weeks ago, the city ran into an issue where there was no available shelter in Chautauqua County that was able or willing to provide shelter for additional homeless individuals.

“We had to open up the Joy Fellowship Church shelter with volunteers earlier than expected,” he said. “We were very thankful for Joy Fellowship Church and their leadership for helping us through those times.”

As the Mental Health Association prepares to open the second emergency shelter, the city is expected to significantly increase the number of available beds for temporary emergency sheltering during “Code Blue” situations. Sundquist said the Gateway Center location was originally planned to house roughly 20 beds. While he said the new emergency shelter may not have that many beds available at first, he said the “intention” is to eventually have around 20 beds available for homeless individuals.

Once the second emergency homeless shelter is officially opened, the city administration will have accomplished one of the two goals discussed by the homelessness coalition.

“That was the first step,” Sundquist said. “Our biggest concern was really dealing with the winter. Our idea was once the shelters have been open, then there’s an opportunity for our resource providers to start to work with individuals to try to get them more a more permanent solution. I think the intention was we need to deal with an emergency situation right this moment, which was the cold weather, and we are going to start to work forward from there.”

Sundquist said his administration is planning on meeting with the city’s resource providers and faith-based leaders in the coming weeks to consider the “next step” in the process of alleviating Jamestown’s issue with homelessness.

The next meeting regarding homelessness is not expected until after the second emergency shelter is fully operational.

“We wanted to wait until the shelters were fully open and give the shelters an opportunity to figure out what are the things that they need and then allow them to ask those organizations for those needs,” Sundquist said. “We’re hoping in the next couple of weeks, sometime in January. We’re going to bring everyone back together to have some further conversations and try to understand where things are at.”

During the period of colder temperatures in December, Sundquist said the city experienced an increase both in individuals utilizing the emergency shelter provided at Joy Fellowship Church and the need for additional shelter opportunities. He explained that while the shelter at Joy Fellowship Church started with only a couple individuals utilizing the shelter during “Code Blue” nights, the shelter has seen a “steady flow” and increase of individuals when the temperature has dropped.

Sundquist added that better weather and warmer temperatures result in less people requiring shelter.

“When the weather gets a little bit better, you start to see a little less people,” he said. “Also, the shelters are really only eligible for funding when whenever the weather is below 32 degrees. We’ve been we’ve been very lucky this winter to have several days that were not, but we are seeing as the temperature starts to drop tremendously, more individuals using those emergency shelters.”

Sundquist said the people organizing the Joy Fellowship Church shelter and the Mental Health Association shelter at the Gateway Center have been “working like crazy” to help address the need in the community.

“I really cannot thank them enough for opening their doors and helping the community,” he said.


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