by Chris Chase
Coastal Journal staff
ROCKPORT — The Midcoast Hospitality House, a homeless shelter that was closed without warning recently, will live again under the direction of the Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA).
The shelter, which is located in Rockport, was shuttered with little notice from its manager, Gordon Manks, who thus far has been unavailable for comment on the issue. However, according to Debra Turcotte, communications director for the MSHA, there has since been some contact with the Manks on their end.
“We have been talking with the Manks, and things have been going really well,” said Turcotte.
The shelter, which closed some time late November, was one of few in the area that offered housing for the homeless. The MSHA sees that service as a valuable resource and plans on getting the shelter up and running as soon as possible.
“A number of homeless service providers in the area have been helping those in need since the shelter has closed,” said Turcotte. “We are working with a number of service providers in the area to get the shelter property back open.”
Although the circumstances surrounding the closure have been hazy at best, Turcotte says it was not done out of malice, and that the Manks have been cooperative with the MSHA.
“From our understanding they had done all that they could, and they needed to step away,” said Turcotte.
The shelter, according to their tax forms, was still financially viable and was still serving the community. However, around the time of the closure, the shelter started to turn people away in order to phase out their services.
“They were not accepting any new people into the shelter, but were trying to find homes for the people that were in there and help them before their closing date,” said Turcotte.
With rumors swirling about the possibility of foul play, Turcotte is adamant about asserting that there has been no indication or evidence of any wrongdoing or lack of oversight.
“We have no indication of any wrongdoing there. The mortgage was paid on time. The paperwork for reimbursement was filed on time,” said Turcotte. “We have no reason to believe there was any financial wrongdoing at the shelter.”
According to Turcotte, the shelter is required to go through a rigorous set of checks to ensure that the funding they were receiving from the MSHA was going toward its intended purpose.
“You would be required to sign a form with your Social Security number when you came in. They would then put your information into the homeless management information database,” said Turcotte. “Every quarter, homeless shelters in Maine send us information on the people that they've helped. We check in to make sure that everything matches up. They don't get the money if the forms don't match up.”
Although the MSHA would rather have had the Manks communicate with them at an earlier time, so far everything has indicated that the Manks were planning on phasing out the shelter for awhile.
“What we have come to find out, is that he was helping people that were already in there and was not letting any more people in,” said Turcotte.
For now the Hospitality House remains shuttered. The MSHA has no definitive date for its reopening, but so far, according to Turcotte, all indications point to it being reopened soon.