This Newark school building was shuttered in 2012. Now, it’s becoming a homeless shelter.

Posted Feb 25, 2021

A Newark school building that was sold around 2017 when the district was under state control will be turned into a 166-bed homeless shelter that will operate year-round, city officials announced Thursday.

Miller Street Elementary School closed in 2012, but now officials expect the building to become transitional housing for men, women and families by September. The shelter will feature a commercial kitchen and drop-in center for people to use individual bathrooms, showers, laundry, phones and televisions.

“The drop-in center will serve as an opportunity for case managers to engage our shelter-averse population, build relationships and take the steps to build the trust that is necessary to engage them into services,” said Newark Homelessness Czar Sakinah Hoyte.

The building, which was one of 12 the school district had previously conveyed to the Newark Housing Authority around 2016, was bought by Claremont Properties, Inc. in 2017 for $500,000. Claremont Development Partner Maximillian Dorne said the rehab cost about $10 million and three floors in the building are leased by Catholic Charities.

“In 2018, we began working with Catholic Charities and the City of Newark to find an adaptive reuse of this existing structure,” said Dorne. “Partnering with Catholic Charities, the goal and intent here was to provide a more efficient continuum of health care, social services (and) homeless services to the residents of Newark and Essex County under one roof.”

Arc Building Partners will handle the construction.

The Miller Street Pathways to Housing Center will include 84 beds for men, 44 women’s beds, activity rooms for each gender and 21 beds for Code Blue declarations. There will also be seven individual suites with a total of 17 beds for families or those who need to stay in quarantine.

It will be a low-barrier shelter, which generally means documentation like an identification card won’t be necessary to stay. Housing navigation, transportation, behavioral health services and more will be provided at the facility, Hoyte said.

The city will pay an operator to run the shelter, Hoyte said. Requests for proposals are being accepted to look for the best candidate.

“A home is a right, not a privilege,” said Mayor Ras Baraka. “Everybody has the right to be in a comfortable, safe environment with a roof over their heads. They do not have to sleep on the streets or in cars and we want to do our best to make sure that we can address that as quickly - and as humanely, that’s important - as we possibly can.”

Newark’s former state-appointed superintendent of schools, Christopher Cerf, announced the buildings would be sold in 2016. The move was expected to save $2 million to $4 million in insurance and maintenance costs at the time, Cerf said at the time.

But the plan was met with some resistance from the public and advisory committee at the time.

Newark Teachers Union President John Abeigon, who looked on during Thursday’s press conference, said turning the school into a shelter was one of the acceptable uses under the district’s arrangement. He said the students who attended Miller Street School and others that were shuttered were likely sent to charter schools.

“That was their strategy,” Abeigon said of the former state-appointed superintendents. “You allow a school to become a dump, then look at this charter school.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-02-26 02:22:10 -0800