A model for the countyVacant motel renovated into apartments for homeless

By on October 19, 2011

By: MICHELLE REIFF Review Staff mreiff.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

The transformation of the property is complete, and now, perhaps, lives will follow.

It was under Monday’s sunny skies that Community Basics Inc. (CBI) celebrated the grand opening of Cloister Heights, a permanent housing community for people experiencing homelessness, in Ephrata. A program, lunch and tours to mark the occasion were provided at the extensively remodeled and furnished apartment building, situated at the former site of the decaying, vacant Cloister Motor Court Motel at 830 W. Main St.

CBI partners with federal, local and state organizations to build and manage affordable housing for familes and individuals. This $2.1 million complex features 12, one-bedroom apartments in place of the old motel and three, two-bedroom apartments in a house situated on the property. There is already a waiting list for the two-bedroom units.

Ken Smith, executive director, said the organization chose Ephrata as its newest location because of the large size of the community and the availability of the building.

"I couldn’t be prouder of this community’s efforts," said Smith as he stood in front of the two-story, yellow-siding-clad dwelling, unrecognizable six months after the ground breaking. "It addresses a real need. We expect that people will be signing leases within the week; we only have two units left."

The three Lancaster County Commissioners, who spoke at the monumental event, agreed that the culmination of this project means the achievement of one main goal: to convince the Lancaster County community that homelessness is not just a city of Lancaster, but a county-wide problem.

"We need to do a better job at serving people in their home community," said Commissioner Scott Martin. "I look at this as one of the first major victories in breaking that old mind-set; my goal and the goal of the Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness is to make this the model."

Several years ago the coalition embarked on its challenge of developing 150 units as part of 10-year plan to end county homelessness. CBI responded to that call to action.

The project was funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Community Affairs, the County of Lancaster Urban Enhancement Grant Fund, the Lancaster County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities’ HOME Fund and the United Way of Lancaster County. The Ephrata/Akron Ministerium and Ephrata Area School District have also been supporters the project all along.

Area residents expressed concern at a borough council meeting earlier this year when the development of the facility had begun that the apartments will attract drug addicts and people living on the street. It was then made clear by Smith that the people who would be living in the facility would not be homeless people who have been living on the streets, but instead, individuals or families who, perhaps for economic reasons, have lost their homes and are now living with friends or families.

Smith said that the apartments will not be for temporary use. Tenants go through an application process, complete with background and credit checks, in order to be approved and eligible for a 30 percent discount in rent.

"Tabor Community Services will be coming in to provide support services once they have moved in," he added.

Each unit includes a living room, bedroom and bathroom. The entire project features ground-source heating and cooling, and tenants will have use of a laundry facility on the ground floor.

Ephrata Mayor Ralph Mowen thanked Smith and CBI partners for their diligence and work and the eager crowd for attending the unveiling of the renovations.

"It is a community issue that we need to embrace. We are very happy to have this facility here to help our local individuals." said Mowen. "Let’s get the people moved in." More MODEL, page A18

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