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Chapel House

Chapel House has closed temporarily as the organization works to fix a broken sewage line at the house on Franklin Street. 

More than a dozen people were displaced Tuesday night after Chapel House closed its Franklin Street homeless shelter in Auburn for an emergency repair. 

At around 10 p.m. Tuesday, the men's homeless shelter posted a Facebook message to notify the public that it had temporarily closed its doors at 36 Franklin St. "due to facilities issues beyond our immediate repair." 

Wednesday morning, Executive Director Christina Thornton said 15 residents, including five military veterans, were relocated to a hotel overnight. Due to some residents' income, she said it was unclear whether all of them would be able to stay at the hotel going forward, so the shelter was attempting to secure other housing options.

Later in the morning, Thornton said the shelter had secured space at the Holy Family gymnasium on North Street, which is where Chapel House started more than 10 years ago.

"Chapel House is returning to its roots," she said in an email. "This morning Chapel House reached out to Holy Family Church, where Chapel House began, and the church has allowed us to open a night-time shelter there until our building is able to be used."

Thornton described the situation at the Franklin Street house as "a series of unfortunate events." She said the trouble began last week when the main water line to the house ruptured. Then Tuesday there was sewage backup in the basement and they discovered there was a break in the main sewage line. 

"We were able to have (the water line) repaired and fixed ... but at this point, we have to repair the entire sewage line leaving Chapel House," Thornton said. "So we relocated all the people overnight and we're working on what we need to do today." 

Thornton said the first quote estimated the repair would cost $35,000. However, she said Chapel House is in the process of getting two additional quotes to make sure the shelter gets the lowest price possible to get the work done. 

Thornton reached out to some local churches to see if they could help house residents until the repairs are complete. She said Chapel House was exploring all options to make sure residents have food and housing until the shelter can reopen. 

Chapel House volunteer and ex-board president Don Cleaver met with Holy Family's the Rev. John Gathenya and maintenance person Tony Nedza to work out the temporary arrangement. The gym will operate as a temporary shelter from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., starting Wednesday night. Sleeping arrangements, dinner and breakfast will be available for those in need of housing.

"Chapel House staff will be on site to assist all in need during this time," Thornton said in an email.

Anyone needing a bed for the night who is not a current shelter resident should contact shelter director Michael White at (315) 209-8289.

Ray Bizzari, the director of the Cayuga County Department of Social Services, said the department is working closely with Chapel House. That included arranging the housing for Chapel House residents at nearby hotels, which comes at an extra cost to the county. 

"It's going to cost us twice as much," Bizzari said, noting that it costs between $30 and $40 per night to house someone at Chapel House compared to $60 to $80 at a hotel. "It's also problematic with hotels because it's summer and there aren't many vacancies." 

Late Wednesday morning, Bizzari said the department was working on a "couple of things," as some local organizations had expressed an interest in helping Chapel House residents short term. He also highlighted DSS staff, who were "pushing all the buttons" to move people into different spaces as quickly as possible. 

"We have an obligation to house people so we have to help Chapel House figure something out," he said. "It's all hands on deck right now, so it puts a lot of strain on the department. But the staff is working really hard on this. They're incredible people." 

According to the shelter's Facebook post, Chapel House is looking for efficiency or one-bedroom apartments for people with income — some working, some disabled — as well as two or more bedroom apartments for people that are receiving assistance from the Department of Social Services. The organization is also seeking donations to cover the cost of the repairs. 

Thornton said that five Chapel House clients had secured housing since the closure, and that 10 men were expected to be staying in the temporary space Wednesday night.

Those looking to help may contact the shelter's Transitional Apartment Program at (315) 255-1144. That program will be staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Any monetary donations can be mailed to Chapel House, P.O. Box 743, Auburn 13021. 

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Staff writer Megan Blarr can be reached at (315) 282-2282 or megan.blarr@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @CitizenBlarr. 

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Crime and Courts Reporter