By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Work has been underway for several weeks now on the Belknap House, a former office building on Court Street which is being converted into a shelter for homeless families during the winter months and will serve as a hostel for visitors during the summer.
Colleen Garrity, president of the Belknap House board of directors, says that the home will provide a safe shelter for homeless families from Belknap County during the coldest months of the year: mid-October through mid-May. It will provide space for five or six families during that time and will be able to accommodate as many as 19 people while used as a hostel.
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.
Garrity and Belknap House directors Alfred Columb, treasurer, and Robert Dingman and Don House provided a tour of the facility yesterday to show the progress of the renovation project as workers struggled to remove the 500-pound radiators from the old heating system, which is being replaced. It is expected that the work will be completed by Oct. 1.
They said that volunteers, local religious and community organizations, and area businesses have provided the needed labor, in-kind donations, and monetary support for many fundraising events to get the project underway. In February, Belknap House completed a $25,000 matching fundraiser campaign which allowed it to match a $25,000 gift from an anonymous donor.
The purchase was completed on April 5, thanks to donations from the community and a loan through the Franklin Savings Bank, for the $250,0000 project.
Local architect Sonya Misiaszek of the Misiaszek Turpin architectural firm, provided the drawings for the ADA-compliant plans, including entrances and exits, bedrooms, bathrooms with showers and tubs, and a renovated kitchen. A new sprinkler system will be installed for fire safety compliance.
The renovated building will have a reception area as well as a common area for residents and office space for an executive director, who will be the only paid employee of Belknap House, which will rely on volunteers to help provide needed services.
The Laconia Zoning Board of Adjustment recently approved a special exception for the property, which was was required since neither a shelter nor a hostel is a permitted use in the commercial district where the building is located.
The ZBA 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 will be open only to families referred to it by welfare directors in Belknap County.
With renovations underway, more volunteers are being sought to help complete the renovations and room sponsors are also being sought.
The next large Belknap House fundraiser will be the second annual Belknap House Golf Tournament on Aug. 22 at Lochmere Country Club in Tilton.
Work is underway on the Belknap House, a former office building on Court Street which will become a shelter for homeless families during the winter months and a hostel during the summer months. Colleen Garrity, president of the Belknap House board of directors, and directors Alfred Columb, Don House and Robert Dingman, say that volunteers are being sought to help with the renovations. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
- Category: Local News
- Hits: 561