By Laura D.C. Kolnoski |
OCEANPORT – Site work has started at a 3.1-acre location on the former Fort Monmouth where footings are being poured for a 4,500-square-foot temporary homeless shelter for adult men and women to be run by Monmouth County.
If construction progresses as planned, the shelter is expected to open next summer, according to County Administrator Teri O’Connor. The exact occupancy date will be based on the final municipal inspections and availability of utility services, O’Connor said.
The one-story “stick built construction” structure at the corner of Courier Avenue and Murphy Drive will have a 12-bed dorm for men, a four-bed dorm for women, separate restrooms and showers for men and women, a laundry room, a clothing sorting and storage room, a counseling office and a security desk. The central resident common area has a kitchen and pantry, a 16-person dining area, a computer nook and a seating area.
The construction contract, awarded in May, went to Mixalia Enterprises, LLC of Shrewsbury, in the amount of $1.895 million, which will be funded by the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA), the agency overseeing the fort’s redevelopment.
The shelter’s services are funded by the county and administered by the Affordable Housing Alliance, an organization that has worked with the county addressing the needs of homeless residents in recent years.
The shelter will offer temporary housing and other services until more permanent housing and treatment services are identified. The former emergency homeless shelter, also in Oceanport, was destroyed in Super Storm Sandy. Its population was assigned to the John L. Montgomery Center in Freehold Township. That facility was purchased by a private concern two years ago.
By statute and agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the county’s homeless shelter must be located in the Oceanport section of the fort. A suitable permanent site was identified last year, accepted by county, FMERA and Oceanport officials, and conveyed to the county by FMERA for $1.
Two existing structures on the property have been demolished, O’Connor said, adding that engineering, roadwork and utility relocation are also part of the preliminary work. The site already includes a paved parking area. A groundbreaking ceremony was held there Aug. 9, attended by county and local officials.
“We are able to hold this groundbreaking due to an all-out cooperative effort between the county and FMERA,” said Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone. “We are grateful to everyone who had a hand in getting us to where we are today for their vision and support.”
Original plans called for the homeless shelter to be made from two pre-fabricated modular structures connected by a bridge portion. That plan fell through last year when county officials learned prefabricated trailers were in short supply, as they were sent to other parts of the country where natural disasters like hurricanes and fires had occurred. Rather than wait, plans were expanded to include traditional stick built construction.
“This new shelter will provide a temporary safe haven for homeless adults and lead them onto a path to a better quality of life,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Lillian G. Burry, the county’s FMERA representative. “There are strict criteria participants must follow. It’s an interim place to be sheltered until they can transition into new circumstances.”
The county houses a fluctuating number of about 18 up to 30 homeless adults who are required to work or look for work and permanent housing during daylight hours. Occupants are allowed to remain at the emergency shelter for a maximum of 30 days.
“We are committed to providing a safe location for people who are down on their luck to get back on their feet and become productive members of society. That’s what everyone wants,” O’Connor said.
This article was first published in the August 23-30, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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