AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – The Town of Amherst is buying the former VFW site on Main Street for $775,000 to provide shelter for those in need.

The former VFW is located near the downtown area for easy access to bus routes, stores, and social services. It will provide space for the homeless, supportive/transitional housing and services, and affordable housing according to a news release from the Town of Amherst.

Amherst has worked with Craig’s Doors, a local non-profit, to provide shelter to residents for over a decade. Craig’s Doors operates at different locations such as church basements, assembly spaces, and renting rooms at the University Motor Lodge. The Town was looking for a permanent space that could provide accommodations and supportive services.

“Amherst has a miraculous track record of leading the way and taking on these human service needs when the need shows itself and in this occurrence that’s exactly what we’ve seen so far,” said Tim McCarthy, Executive Director of Craig’s Door.

The Town of Amherst designated American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds of $1 million to fund a permanent shelter. The Purchase and Sale agreement was signed in November and is expected to close in January of 2023.

“This is a unique opportunity to establish a permanent space to provide shelter and deliver services to those members of our community who are unhoused and most at-risk,” said Town Manager Paul Bockelman. “The Town has a moral duty to provide humane shelter for those at risk. This parcel provides the ability to address these needs,” added Bockelman. 

David Ziomek, Assistant Town Manager told 22News, “The purpose of the acquisition is really to set the stage for Amherst for creating a space for a permanent shelter as well as permanent supportive housing and potentially other services around those two operations.”

While there’s no blueprint for what this shelter may look like just yet, both McCarthy and Ziomek told 22News that it will have all the resources a shelter needs.

“The Board of Directors and staff of Craig’s Doors would like to express our excitement about this project. We also want to thank Paul Bockelman and Dave Ziomek for their dogged pursuit of this goal, which has been a dream of every Executive Director and Board of Craig’s Doors for many years. That we can partner with the Town to provide permanent shelter as well as affordable housing for our guests and others in need of housing, fills us with delight. While we will be forever grateful to the houses of worship – First Baptist Church, the Unitarian Universalist Society, and Immanuel Lutheran Church – for providing us with true sanctuary for the past 13 years, this project will make our work much easier, more cost-effective, and will allow our guests the guarantee of 24-hour shelter as well as an easier path toward permanent housing.” said Gerry Weiss, President, and Timothy McCarthy, Executive Director, of Craig’s Doors.