Portable pallet homes could help Middletown’s homeless population, town manager says

Videos of pallet shelter villages were shown to city council members, city staff, and police and fire chiefs.

Pallet homes are available in 64 square foot units that sleep up to two people and 100 square foot units that sleep up to four people.

The pallets are portable, easy to set up and could be used in Middletown and then moved to another town in the county, according to Palenick. He called homelessness a regional problem, which is not limited to Middletown.

The 64 units, plus restrooms and meeting rooms would cost about $919,000, he said.

Police Chief David Birk said the “first hurdle” would be figuring out the right location for the pallet villages.

Palenick said the units should be located on the city bus route and likely near an industrial park. He mentioned the mall on South University Boulevard that housed the old Target as a possible site because it offers parking.

It’s also important that the “community put their arms around this,” said Jackie Phillips, the city’s health commissioner.

The website www.palletshelter.com said he is creating “private and safe spaces for anyone in this time of transition and building community.”

Private sleeping cabins with lockable doors allow residents to have “peace of mind while they rest their heads in a safe space,” the website says.

Bill Fugate, volunteer coordinator for Serving Homeless Alternate Lodging Of Middletown (SHALOM), a church-based homeless shelter that is not open this year due to COVID-19, was asked about the need for pallet houses.

“If you build it, they will come,” he said.

But, he said, these types of units are “not the answer; it’s just a bandage.

City Council Member Rodney Muterspaw said that for homelessness to be successfully addressed, Middletown needs other nearby towns to get more involved. Otherwise, he said, if Middletown opens the pallet homes, it will only attract more homeless people.

“We are Middletown,” he said. “We take care of our own, but we cannot take care of others.”

SHALOM and local churches offer free breakfasts three times a week behind First United Methodist Church, 120 S. Broad St.

Meals are served from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and Fugate said around 40 meals are distributed each day. That’s about 15 more than two months ago, he said.

The Hope House men’s shelter is located at 1001 Grove St. The facility replaced the 150-year-old former American Hotel on Main Street and includes a 50-bed emergency shelter for men and 30 one-bedroom apartments for chronically homeless, said Tim Williams, executive director of operations at Hope House Mission.

Funding for the project came from tax credits, private support and grants, Williams said. Hope House is an affiliate of City Gospel Mission, based in Cincinnati since 1924.

The warming center is located at 1009 Grove St. Erica Norton, chief operating officer of the Mindful Healing Center, which runs the warming center, said it operates from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m., seven days a week. until April 30. This means that the cost of running the center will cost around $1,000 per day.

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