A New Year

In just two short days, we will be beginning a new year. The days leading up to 2017 give us a time to evaluate our mission and values. A chance to decide – have we been doing right? What do we want to commit to doing differently in 2017? How can we make ourselves better people in the new year?

As an Executive Director, I have to ask myself and my staff – what do we plan to do differently this year, to better serve those without homes? And we ask our guests – what do they want to do differently this year, to help achieve their personal goals?

As we begin to imagine what the new year should look like for us, I cling to a few values that have not changed since we first opened in 2011:

Everyone deserves a door of their own

No one should die from a New England winter

People who are homeless are not social inadequates’, they are people without homes

Homelessness can happen to anyone

Message from our Shelter Guests

Save Craig’s Place! from Craig’s Doors on Vimeo.

Funding Update

Craig’s Doors funding has been restored!  

 

We are deeply grateful to Governor Baker for choosing to
#SaveCraigsPlace

THANK YOU
Rep. Story and Sen. Rosenberg
And everyone who has advocated on our behalf, and donated to support
the shelter during this difficult time.

But we still need your help!

The turn around time for state earmarks is one to two months.  Because of this, Craig’s Doors is continuing to operate at minimal staffing and administrative costs to hang on.  We still need support from the community as we wait for the state funding.

Your donation is not wasted!

Your donations have and will save lives this winter!
With our shelter funding restored,
your donation will also:

  • Give guests hope during the dark New England Winter
  • Provide case management services to shelter guests
  • Help individuals move into permanent housing
  • Support the long term stability of the Shelter services
Donate today to
#savecraigsplace and MORE

November at Craig’s Place

The first month of the shelter is at an end and we’re heading into the winter season. Already the first snow has fallen and it is more important than ever to keep the shelter up and running. Despite the uncertainty regarding our funding, the shelter itself is running well. We’ve seen a dramatic change from last year and things are going smoothly at Craig’s Doors. Guests are happy with the new procedures in place and appreciate having a safe place to call home for the night.

As December marches on, we are getting closer to hearing the state’s decision on the earmarked funding. That being said, our own fundraising campaign has already brought in eight thousand dollars via a GoFundMe page set up by Rebekah. Money that is much needed to help keep the shelter running and provide critical support to those in need. If you haven’t, check out the video made by our staff. It features some of guests talking about their experiences at the shelter and the importance of the shelter to them. For those unfamiliar with the Craig’s Place Emergency Shelter, it’s a great window into the lives of our guests.

We’re roughly a week away from hearing the Governor’s decision and the health and safety of our guests hangs in the balance. Please consider taking a moment to check out our GoFundMe page or share it with someone you know. Even the act of spreading the word helps us tremendously during this trying time. You support, both large and small, is critical to our success.

Save Craig’s Place Video

Full video coming soon!

Funding Crisis

Due to a State budget deficit, earmark funding in line item 7004-0102 designated for Homeless Individuals Assistance is on hold.  This includes $200,000 designated for Craig’s Doors.  For the past three years, Craig’s Doors has used this funding to operate Craig’s Place, Amherst’s emergency homeless shelter.  The governor’s administration will reach a decision by December 15, 2016; until then, it is uncertain what will happen. There are three options: 1.) We receive all of our funding. 2.) We take a percentage cut, which may be great or small. 3.) We lose all of our funding.

In the event that funding is not restored, Craig’s Place may have to close during the coldest and most dangerous months of winter.  Without Craig’s Place, many individuals will have to sleep outside, and some of them will die.

“We are doing everything we can to keep the shelter open.” Rebekah Wilder, Craig’s Doors Executive Director said.

In addition to communications with the legislature and state, Craig’s Doors is seeking alternative funding sources and cutting expenses.

Today, we are making an appeal to the Hampshire County community: help us keep our doors open. Help us in our mission to support those who are at their most vulnerable. Whether you are able to donate time, money, or material goods, your contribution to our shelter directly translates into another day of operation, another day of saving lives. Each day is significant.  In order to remain an accessible resource, we need the support of our community. Your partnership is essential to the furthering of our goal to create housing for those in need.

The mission of Craig’s Place is to provide safe, caring shelter for people experiencing homelessness.  They are a seasonal 22 bed Emergency Shelter and serve between 150 and 200 individuals each year.  On Tuesday, November 1st, just five hours before the shelter was scheduled to open, Rebekah Wilder received notice that the funding was uncertain.  By this time, the supplies were all purchased, staff hired and trained, and the guests waiting in town for the doors to open.

That is the reality facing each guest; as they ask themselves “Will I make it through another night?”.

Craig’s Place has a behavior-based admissions policy: all who show respect for the safety and well-being of our guests, volunteers, and staff are welcome. Its existence allows for some of the most vulnerable members of the community—those with ongoing substance use issues, mental health issues, and physical disabilities—to exercise basic human rights to shelter, safety, and respect. This means that even if an individual is under the influence they will have a place to stay for the night. Craig’s Place is the only behavior based shelter in Hampshire County, and only one of two in all of Western Mass.  Many of our guests seek refuge with us, having no other options left to them.

On an average night, fifty-two percent of shelter guests struggle with mental health issues, while another thirty-six percent have substance use issues. Furthermore, twenty-six percent of people struggle with both, making them some of the most vulnerable guests at the shelter. These are individuals who are the most likely to die if they are left outside in the cold.

Opening Night

Last night marked the beginning of the 2016-2017 season for the Craig’s Place Emergency Shelter. And it got off to a great start! All told, the shelter kept seventeen individuals out of the cold last night, many of whom were quick to say they missed the shelter and its friendly faces. Shelter guests were able to enjoy a hot meal, warm shower and their “first good night’s sleep in a long time”. Everyone was happy to have a calm, quiet night at the shelter.

However not everyone who showed up to the shelter last night was able to stay. This was especially true for one female guest, since the number of women allowed to stay the night is now capped at six. But Craig’s Doors dedicated staff members were able to drive her to a neighboring Cot Shelter in Northampton, to keep her from spending the night on the streets. As we head into a busy, and cold, season, things are shaping up well. With new policies and procedures in place, a devoted team of staff and volunteers, the foundation has been set for an excellent season.

And the need could not be greater as there are many in community who are without stable housing. Though Amherst may be known for it’s numerous colleges, Craig’s Place Shelter provides an important service for individuals in the community who are on the outside of that world. Individuals who are facing hard times and uncertainty about their future, but who can take comfort in the fact that they have a place to call home for the night.

Thoughts from Rebekah

We have been blessed to run the Amherst’s Emergency Shelter over the past 5 years.  We shelter 22-34 individuals each night from November 1st – April 30th.  Our mission is to be a safe place for anyone experiencing homelessness.  No one deserves to die from a New England Winter, no matter what has happened in their life.  I am honored to serve these incredible individuals, who have fought through so much.  They are strong, brave, and resilient.

This was rough year for everyone, but especially for those whose residence is the streets of Amherst.  I want to apologize for the added stress placed on you this year.  The lack of a Shelter Director and the stress caused by the tight space in the trailer was something none of you needed added to your plate.  This year, I am committed to ensuring the shelter operations run smoothly for everyone.

Craig’s Place was home to 186 individuals this winter. 63% struggle with mental illness, and 48% struggle with Substance abuse.  Of those who struggle with Substance abuse, 74% of them struggle with a mental illness.  These numbers inform us of the real issues behind addiction – mental health.

Everyone who comes through our doors is unique.  Their range of abilities, life stories, desires, hopes and dreams, and level of self-respect all come together to create different barriers to housing.

It is only through working with them as individuals, and not as a collective group, that we will find the solutions to ending homelessness.

Real-life portraits: Amherst photo exhibit profiles homeless people in the region

In lieu of last Friday’s blog post, I’m sharing the following link.

If you are still in Amherst, I hope you will visit this Photo Exhibit by Eric Broudy.

Real-life portraits: Amherst photo exhibit profiles homeless people in the region

No Walls to hide

Guest Blogger

Claire Martin

Craig’s Place Staff

I have a memory of myself as a child, sitting in the passenger seat of my mother’s car, looking out the window at some new construction being built as we drove by. It was becoming a huge gray building, rectangular in shape, and impressive in size. As we drove past it, I said to my mother, “That should be a homeless shelter.” I’m not sure how I was even aware of the concept of homelessness given my very sheltered world – perhaps a movie on TV, or a story in the news, but I remember this interaction specifically because of my mother’s reaction to it – she laughed.

It took me years to understand why she thought my suggestion was so funny.  I saw a big empty building, a spacious place where there could be beds, and tables of food. It seemed perfectly logical to me at the time.

What I didn’t know is that our society’s attitude toward the problem of homelessness was very unlike my childlike view. There is a near unshakable belief in our minds that those who suffer without a home are a product of their own poor judgment in life, and homelessness is a kind of societal penalty that is well deserved.


Craig’s Place is a wet shelter. If you are not familiar with the term, it simply means that we do not require our guests to be “dry” and sober upon entry. We meet you where you are in life. We sign everybody in, wand everybody, and search for contraband (alcohol, needles, weapons etc.). We lock away any and all contraband found for the night, and our guests’ possessions are returned to them upon departure. Many people do not understand the purpose of a wet shelter, sometimes thinking that we should put a greater emphasis on rehabilitated behavior.  However our function is far simpler than that. We are an EMERGENCY shelter. Our intake is based on vulnerability and need. In other words, we do not believe that because a person is an addict, that person deserves to die in the cold when we have the services to prevent it.

The scrutiny upon our guests is palpable. How many times have we heard in reference to them, “They should just get a job,” their stories are boiled down to the nearest available prejudice. Why can’t they just get a job? Why can’t their families help them? Why should we support these people at all, when they should be able to take care of themselves, if they only really wanted to? Why ask for grants and public support? I find the latter is especially what people tend to be “concerned” with – that we could be wasting valuable money on people who don’t deserve it.

Because you see, homeless shelters don’t generate revenue.

I think its easy for us to demonize the homeless because we like to think that we could never be in a similar situation ourselves. The very thought of descending to a level where, safety, privacy and cleanliness become unattainable scares us to our very core. As it is, we have a tendency to forget that most of us are doing as well as we are because we have had people to help us, to house and clothe us, to give us a ride to school or work, to give us recommendations and second chances, and access to medical care. But I promise you, among all of us that have managed to procure these things, there are addicts, there are criminals, there are the mentally ill. The only difference is, they have a home.

You and I have a place to go at night, a place to wake up warm every morning, closets to keep our clothes pressed, laundry facilities to keep them clean. We can take showers whenever we want, we can wake up every morning and present whatever kind of face we want to the world outside. Our walls, our privacy, our autonomy… allows us these options. It isn’t that we are devoid of faults and habits that are shameful – its that we can hide them.

It is often said that you never really know someone until you live with them. After all, that’s when the bad habits come out. But beyond that, the world has to assume we are who we say we are, barring further evidence to the contrary. Walls are very forgiving, but people aren’t. And against a clear background, our sins are laid bare for the world to see, scrutinize, and ultimately condemn us. There is nowhere to hide. It isn’t that the homeless are less moral or deserving than anyone else, its that when they do struggle, everyone can see.

At one point in my life, when I was 18, I found myself pregnant, homeless from fleeing a turbulent relationship, and having moved south, I was far from familial support. I called my mother for help, and she suggested that I sleep in my car. This I did, luckily only for a night or two, as some kind friends eventually intervened. But I often think back to those days and wonder, would I be where I am now if my housing situation remained in a state of impermanence?  Would the situation have played out as well as it did in the end? Would I even have survived it? We all would like to believe that these are the kinds of situations that only happen to other people, that we ourselves are too far from the reach of desperation’s grip. But the truth is, this population is full of You’s and Me’s. It’s a reflection of our society; a doppelganger for every type. And I feel that if more people would be open to visiting us, they might get to meet theirs, and possibly see Craig’s Place – and themselves – in a different light.