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Nebraska emergency shelter renovated and expanded

Posted 10:37 a.m. Saturday

— Because of the new addition at Hope Harbor, families seeking refuge will now be able to stay together.

In the past, Hope Harbor's emergency shelter program served only women and children. But the renovated emergency shelter, which opened Sept. 6, is open to two-parent families, single fathers and their children, and married couples, The Grand Island Independent reported.

The new emergency shelter is on the east side of the building. It includes five rooms that hold a total of 26 beds. The addition, which also includes a day room, is at Hope Harbor's longtime home.

In planning the improvements at Hope Harbor, officials knew there was a need for housing for families and couples that include men.

Over the last two years, Hope Harbor has received "countless phone calls from families requesting shelter," said Liz Mayfield, the organization's executive director.

Because the men couldn't stay, some families opted to stay in their cars or other dangerous or uncomfortable situations, Mayfield said.

"Our main concern is offering the services that are most needed in Grand Island," Hope Harbor Board President Kelly Henry said in a news release. "After we opened our Service Center last fall, we turned our focus to expanding programs. We feel strongly that this expansion of services addresses the very real needs of our growing community. We were thrilled that we could make this change without an interruption of service to the families we serve."

The old emergency shelter, on the west side of the building, had 12 beds. That portion of the building closed Sept. 6. More transitional shelter beds will be added in that space.

Hope Harbor's emergency and transitional shelters now both serve the same populations. The transitional shelter will continue to be available to two-parent families, single fathers and their children, and married couples. The transitional shelter holds people for up to nine months.

People may stay in the emergency shelter for up to 30 days. But Hope Harbor gets many of those residents into the transitional shelter as soon as space opens up, Mayfield said.

Single men are the only population not served by Hope Harbor. Those men, Mayfield said, are welcome at the Salvation Army.

In the new emergency shelter are three rooms that hold six beds apiece and two rooms that hold four beds each. "To have five bedrooms now instead of three is big," Mayfield said.

The emergency shelter's previous limitation to women and children was primarily due to the layout of the rooms.

Hope Harbor's Service Center opened last fall in the previous home of Contryman Associates. That building houses administrative offices, a donation room and education room.

The Hope Expanding Capital Campaign kicked off in January 2015. As part of the project, the shelter kitchen was renovated to provide two food prep workspaces for residents as well as main-floor laundry facilities, a resident library and computer lab.

There was a chance the improved emergency shelter was going to be full on its opening night, Mayfield said.

In the last few months, many larger families have come to the facility needing shelter.

Two families are not put in the same room. So when a larger family comes, it will take up an entire room.

Oftentimes, though, a room is set aside for single women. So up to six single women could share a room.

People may check into the emergency shelter from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m., providing there is space.

If people know they'd like to stay at Hope Harbor, Mayfield recommends they visit earlier in the day.

The addition of transitional shelter beds to the old emergency shelter should be complete by mid-October, Mayfield said.

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