New London committee moves to allow homeless center more beds

New London - The City Council's Administration Committee approved an emergency measure Monday that will allow the New London Homeless Hospitality Center to double the number of beds at its new facility on State Pier Road which is scheduled to open Nov. 1.

The full council will review the request and vote at its Sept. 3 meeting.

Cathy Zall, executive director of the homeless shelter, asked the committee to support the measure, which cover the period from Nov. 1 through March 31, 2014.

In 2011, the center received a special permit from the Planning & Zoning Commission for a 25-bed shelter at the former Polish National Church. The hospitality center had asked for 50 beds but was granted 25.

The $1 million renovation project also includes a 10-bed respite center for those who are sick or recovering from hospital stays and offices for health care. The shelter is scheduled to move Nov. 1 from St. James Church, which is located in the central business district, where the capacity is 50 beds.

The council committee advised Zall to return to the planning commission to amend its approval from 25 to 50 beds for the 2014-15 winter season. "I think that is a good idea,'' Zall said. "We'll go back to planning and zoning. Maybe they'll be some openness and that would solve our problem.''

In June, Zall told the City Council 25 beds were not enough to keep people off the streets during freezing weather. The shelter has a no-freeze policy during cold weather, Zall said, opening its doors to anyone and providing a bed, a chair or just a blanket and pillow.

"We do not want to return to days when the homeless froze," she said.

In addition to providing night shelter, the center helps homeless find permanent housing. It also provides funds for one-way bus fare home for those who live out of New London County.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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