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April 2, 2014

Advocates take new steps for homeless

While the temperature has been creeping upward, city officials and several advocates for the homeless have come together to take new steps toward addressing Gloucester’s and Cape Ann’s growing homeless population and aiding others in need.

Members of the City Council, Action Inc. — which runs Gloucester’s homeless shelter — the Salvation Army, The Grace Center and others have set up an overflow homeless shelter to go beyond the 34 beds Action Inc. already provides.

The goal is simple: When the temperature hovers near or below freezing and could be fatal to anyone sleeping outside, people will now have a place to stay, as a motel owner in the city has agreed to house some homeless people in the winter. The Salvation Army has awarded a grant to Action Inc., up to $5,000, to fund the voucher program.

The program will not simply accept anyone who comes along, Tim Riley, the executive director of Action Inc., said Tuesday. Action’s own emergency shelter on Main Street holds 34 beds, but only those who follow the rules and safety guidelines are allowed to stay. In addition, those at the shelter must be able to document that they are working toward getting a job or housing somewhere else.

Riley said the voucher program for an inn or motel would operate under similar rules. Mike Skoog, a senior field representative with the Salvation Army’s service extension program, said that one Gloucester inn has signed to participate; organizers did not identify the motel or inn during interviews Tuesday.

“It just didn’t seem to make sense to have anyone that shows up at the shelter (and) send them to a hotel,” Riley said. At the same time, he added, “It’s a winter problem, it’s something really to keep people from being out on the street and freezing to death.”

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