Thursday November 29, 2012

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The Bennington Coalition for the Homeless has received preliminary approval for a new shelter on North Street.

Bennington Planning Director and Zoning Administrator Daniel Monks said the preliminary approval was granted by the Development Review Board last week. A second and final hearing will be held on Dec. 4.

"That should be the final one, assuming everything goes well," Monk said. "Unless there’s some new information it’s likely that it will get approved."

Monk said nobody at the first hearing spoke out against the proposal. Several people spoke in its favor, he said.

Executive Director Kendy Skidmore said the new 250 North St. location would serve as an emergency shelter that people could use without prior planning. The group operates other facilities in and around Bennington that provide shelter and housing for the homeless, but those locations require prior approval.

The coalition operated a warming shelter on Depot Street for several months last winter. The new location on North Street will provide a more permanent solution for the homeless during the winter months, however. The need for a permanent shelter became apparent last winter, according to Skidmore.

The coalition received "significant funds" as start-up capital for the shelter from a church in Shaftsbury, according to Skidmore. Still, the coalition will be counting on local residents approving town funding when the group appears again on the Town Meeting Day ballot. The shelter will be staffed primarily with volunteers and existing staff members, Skidmore said.

The coalition plans to lease the building that is currently set up as two apartments and commercial space. It will likely accommodate 12 to 15 people, if needed.

The coalition already operates 6 Bank Street in North Bennington. That shelter provides living space for families that are in a transition. The Thatcher House in Bennington provides long-term apartments as well as the group’s offices. The coalition also rents transitional apartments on McCall Street and Pleasant Street.

Skidmore said the coalition recently opened a shelter on Richville Road in Manchester that can accommodate up to 10 people.