By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Belknap House, the first shelter to serve homeless families in Belknap County, is anticipated to open its door at 200 Court St. in October.
Leonard Campbell of Catholic Charities said yesterday that with the special exception granted by the Zoning Board of Adjustment earlier this week the Board of Directors is prepared to close on the purchase of the property.
Modeled after the Homeless Center for Strafford County, the facility will operate as shelter for homeless families from Oct. 15 until May 15 and as a hostel from May 15 until Oct. 1. The revenue collected from those staying in the hostel during the warmer months will be applied to budget to operate and maintain the shelter. The shelter will have capacity five or six families while the hostel can accommodate as many as 19 people.
The special exception was required since neither a shelter nor a hostel is a permitted use in the commercial district where the building is located.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment attached three conditions to its decision. The property must be screened from abutting properties, Temple B'nai Israel to the west and a residence on Pearl Street to the south, by either fencing or shrubbery. Families referred to the shelter by the welfare directors of towns in the county would remain domiciled in those towns, which would be responsible for providing any public assistance and services to them as well as schooling their children. Finally, the shelter would be open only to families referred to it by welfare directors in Belknap County.
Campbell described the conditions as "not the least onerous," explaining that all were incorporated in the design and operation of the facility.
Altogether $250,000 has been raised to purchase and renovate the property. Renovations will include installation of a sprinkler system, kitchen and laundry, improvements to the bathrooms and measures to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Currently the Carey House, operated by the Salvation Army, is the only shelter for homeless families in the Lakes Region, but it has capacity for only three families, leaving scant options for the rest, who are often directed to Concord.
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