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Cambridge Council Votes $25K For New City Homeless Shelter

By Martha A. Bridegam

The Cambridge City Council last night granted $25,000 to open the city's National Guard Armory as a new shelter for the homeless.

The shelter, which will be managed by Shelter, Inc. will probably open on February 15, said Cambridge Director of Emergency Services Philip F. Mangano.

"The number got pulled out of a hat tonight," City Manager Robert M. Healy said of the $25,000 grant, which will come from property taxes. The city grant cannot cover the facility's operating costs, Healy said.

The state will provide additional funds and reimburse some of the city's support when Cambridge officials have completed negotiations with the State Executive Office of Human Services.

Although Healy formally supported the city's grant, he said, "I don't think the city should be in the business of operating shelters." The City Council cannot allocate funds without the city manager's recommendation.

Cambridge officials announced on Friday that the state office has given full support to the Cambridge armory project, and Mangano said he is confident thatthe state and city can together provide enoughmoney to keep the shelter operating.

Some of the $25,000 will provide bedding andother equipment, Mangano said, but most will paytrained staff to give essential attention to theshelter's guests.

Mangano said only fire and public safetyinspections could now delay the shelter's opening.

The building is in good condition and needsonly minor plumbing repairs, said James Stewart,who serves on a committee which has been lobbyingfor the shelter.

"The armory's not an ideal site--it's just abasic act of mercy," Stewart said. The 20-bedfacility would raise the number of shelter bedsavailable in the city to 127, while a city reportreleased last spring estimated that there weremore than 250 homeless people in Cambridge.

The committee which created the armory shelterplan will continue to meet, Healy told the Councillast night. Shelter Inc. director David Whitty,Mangano, Assistant City Manager for Human ServicesJill Herold serve on the committee as well asseveral shelter operators, clergy and publicofficials.

By May, Healy said, the group plans to prepareproposals for more permanent solutions toreintegrate the homeless into society.

In a brief debate, Councilor Frank H. Duehay'55 insisted that Cambridge adopt a specific setof goals and policies to guide future efforts tohelp the homeless, while Councilor William H.Walsh called for an all-out effort to providesleeping space during the winter.

Walsh advocated building a new 100-bed shelternear Fresh Pond in northwestern Cambridge.However, Healy and several of the homelessadvocates said that such a shelter would beremote, expensive and more conducive to"warehousing" than genuine care.CrimsonGeorge H. OrtizMayor WALTER SULLIVAN presides over the citycouncil meeting yesterday.

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