Final touch-ups in the first-floor handicapped accessible apartment.
ADAMS, Mass. — The living room is still filled with tools and workers complete a laundry list of final items. Outside, there's still siding to finish and railings to install.
But the former Louison House on Old Columbia Street is nearing the point at which it once again can offer shelter to those in emergency need of a roof over their heads.
"I think we're really pretty far along," said Executive Director Kathy Keeser during a tour of the building on Tuesday. "Now they're just doing little things for inspection ... Most of their work is outside now.
Now dubbed Terry's Place for founder Theresa Louison, the walls and trim are freshly painted, new doors and windows installed, flooring down and security put in place. All the bathrooms have been redone and a new kitchen put in.
The old Victorian home was damaged by fire and water in June 2016, which lead to the complete upgrade of the structure to accommodate contemporary standards.
An open house is scheduled for Friday, Valentine's Day, from 3 to 6 p.m. to show the community the work that's been done over the past year. The drop-in will include light refreshment and continuous tours of the three-story building.
Keeser said it will be a few more weeks before the shelter can move from its current location in the Flood House in North Adams. The final interior items have to be completed for inspections and the alarms tested before a certificate of occupancy can be acquired. In the meantime, the shelter will begin moving in some of its supplies and furniture for the final relocation.
Louison House has been providing transitional housing since its founding as the Family Life Support Center in 1990, spearheaded by the late Theresa Louison. The housing nonprofit offers emergency shelter — currently at the Flood House in North Adams — as well as permanent supportive housing. It's provided services to more than 8,000 individuals and families struggling with homelessness in Northern Berkshire.
The average stay for families in transitional housing has increased to 6 1/2 months in recent years and permanent supportive is ranging from two to five years.
After the fire in 2016, the North Adams Housing Authority agreed to a temporary lease for the Flood House on Church Street in North Adams and later transferred the building over to Louison House. Once Terry's Place is reopened, the Flood House will also get a makeover, although not nearly as dramatic.
Terry's Place will offer temporary shelter for up about 22 people. A large room on the first floor has been set aside as a shelter for men, with room for six beds, storage and a large handicapped accessible bathroom. The first floor also has a parlor with a vintage nonworking fireplace, an office, a kitchen and pantry, washer/dryer area and large dining room.
The second floor has space for 16 women and children in a series of rooms and two bathrooms. The upstairs is not universally accessible. Neither is the third-floor apartment reached by an outside staircase.
However, a downstairs apartment is completely accessible with a ramp, wide doors, and large bathroom. Both the upstairs apartment and the handicapped accessible apartment will be leased and be separate from the shelter portion. The apartments are similar to other permanent housing Louison House provides.
"They won't have to be chronic homeless but they have to have had some homelessness," Keeser said. "The process is prioritizing things that block them from getting other housing ... Like something in their housing history that makes it more difficult to get other housing.
"Then the other thing we're prioritizing is recovery. Both of those two things because the community needs it."
Louison House's policy is no substances and no smoking, so anyone in recovery would have a clean place to reside.
"They'll serve as permanent housing and it will have to be affordable ... it's on a project-based voucher with the state," Keeser said. "These are the two of the closest to us so they can also use occasional support services."
There is no official wait list but there are some names already in consideration.
Once the interior and exterior are completed, Keeser is hoping for volunteers to help spiff up the landscaping with gardens, children's play areas and convivial spaces to match the newly remodeled house.
Geary Construction is the contractor and Berkshire Housing Development Corp. is the development agency. The total cost of the project includes $1.7 million in state funding for Louison and some work at Flood House. At a groundbreaking in last July, the Louison House's board of directors thanked the community for both its monetary and volunteer support in keeping the shelter operating.
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