Work for a homeless shelter to get started | News, Sports, Jobs

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  Agnes M. 'Aggie' Carney |  News, Sports, Jobs

The nonprofit received land-development approval Wednesday from the Altoona Planning Commission.

The bank has already granted an extension on a deadline for spending the money, and now expects the agency to have used up a “significant portion” by mid-September, Hann said.

Conversely, if a second request is necessary, it would be granted if the project is underway, she said.

If the site is still idle then, a second extension request might be futile, she said.

Story Highlights

  • Family Services Inc. hopes to begin construction within days on its $3.2 million, 37-bed shelter for homeless people, plus six income-limited apartments.

  • The commission called a special meeting to consider the land development request for the renovation project, because unless Family Services begins construction soon, it risks losing access to a $750,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank, according to Lisa Hann, Family Services executive director.

The shelter is needed here, as shown by Family Services having had to turn away 1,667 people from its existing shelter in the fiscal year ending June 30, Hann said.

There were 342 individuals served during that time, she said.

Homelessness is necessarily obvious. In Blair County, it often takes the form of couch surfing; staying with friends, neighbors and people recently met or squatting in abandoned houses, warehouses and storefronts; or camping in woods on the outskirts of town, close enough for forays into town for necessities, Hann said.

Last month, 245 homeless people registered with another local agency, seeking a place to live, Hann said. The new shelter will have a few single rooms, many double rooms and two family rooms.

The single rooms may be especially useful for clients with post-traumatic stress syndrome, who might not do well with a roommate, according to Hann. The double rooms section would function like a hostel.

Family Services will be taking over the two buildings nearest the corner of 23rd Street and North Branch Avenue. Those two have interior connections. The third building will be retained by Durbin Construction, which initially bought the entire block.

The structure, purchased from the Drenning family, is actually three attached buildings in a line. Family rooms will enable the agency to avoid having to turn away potential clients due to the needs of couples with children, she said.