GLOUCESTER — Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken and Lifebridge Executive Director Jason Etheridge are pleased to announce that the Grace Center will be offering expanded day services this winter to address community needs amid the hardships of the ongoing pandemic.
Grace Center will be moving its operation to the site of Gloucester House Restaurant at 63 Rogers St. beginning on Wednesday, Dec. 16. The center will be open daily, providing breakfast and lunch meals to those experiencing homelessness and who are underserved. The Grace Center, which operates under the umbrella of Lifebridge’s operations serving those experiencing homelessness and hardship on the North Shore, will continue to operate out of the Gloucester House building through April, when the nonprofit will return to operating out of the Unitarian Universalist Church at 10 Church St.
Mayor Romeo Theken has been at the helm of a significant community effort over the past several months to identify solutions to the needs of those experiencing homelessness locally as the services of North Shore shelters and nonprofit service providers have been reduced due to social distancing restrictions. This need has been further exacerbated by the pandemic as a result of increased rates of unemployment, a growing need for access to food, childcare needs, rising concerns about mental health and domestic abuse, and more.
“So many people are facing serious hardships as a result of the pandemic, and the needs of those struggling before COVID-19 have only been exacerbated. Over the summer, we knew we had to find a solution to make sure people would have a safe place to turn to this winter not only for food and warmth, but to identify other resources available to them as well,” Mayor Romeo Theken said. “This is a tremendous example of our City coming together to take care of each other and of a private business owner stepping up to help people. Thank you to everyone who has worked with us to make this possible, this is a huge win for Gloucester.”
“We are incredibly thankful to have this opportunity to expand our much needed services through the Grace Center to help people in Gloucester at a time when so many have been presented with incredible adversity,” Lifebridge Executive Director Jason Etheridge said. “So many people worked together to make this a reality, and it is a wonderful example of what a community can do when people really need each other. To have a private business partner with us to make a difference in this way says a lot about Lenny Linquata and the community here in Gloucester, and we’re proud to be a part of this effort.”
Mayor Romeo Theken wishes to recognize and thank the following individuals for their collaboration and support as the City has worked to identify solutions to the needs of its homeless population: Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Sen. Bruce Tarr, Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, Secretary Mary Lou Sudders, Department of Housing and Community Development, Gloucester House owner Lenny Linquata, Action Inc and The Open Door.
“I am proud of the way our community– local and state government and the nonprofit Grace Center and the Gloucester House– all came together under the leadership of Mayor Romeo Theken to solve an important issue during these challenging times,” Rep. Ferrante said. “By bringing the resources of public and private entities together, we will be able to expand the capacity of the Grace Center and protect our homeless population from the dangers of COVID-19 and the harsh New England weather. Homelessness, mental health and addiction issues have robbed many of their human dignity. The COVID-19 pandemic and the harsh winter weather conditions coupled with these issues challenge the survivability of the aforementioned afflictions. I am proud of everyone involved in this partnership especially the Linquata family for their contribution in helping us to protect this vulnerable population.”
“This innovative partnership responds to the critical need of giving people safe, warm and accessible daytime shelter and programming as winter weather tightens its grip on the community and the COVID-19 virus continues to take a heavy toll,” Sen. Tarr said. “The partnership between the Gloucester House and the Grace Center, through the leadership of Mayor Romeo Theken, is a shining example of the strength that comes from rising to overcome adversity through collaboration and creative thinking. In addition to supporting this endeavor, my hope is that we will replicate its success in meeting the other challenges we face now and in the future.”
The larger, more centrally located space at the Gloucester House will allow the Grace Center to serve more people daily.
“Grace Center is grateful to be part of this unique partnership with Mayor Romeo Theken, with Lenny Linquata and the Gloucester House to enable us to expand services to homeless and vulnerable people in our community during the harshest part of the winter,” said Grace Center Advisory Committee Co-Chair Carolyn Stewart. “We thank the Mayor for calling upon us and we are proud to respond. This is a win, win, win for our guests and for the community at large. We are also thankful for the leadership of the Unitarian Universalist Church and their continued support of Grace Center .”
On the North Shore, the Lynn Shelter Association, Lifebridge and Action Inc. all have been required to operate at a significantly reduced capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions, all while communities they serve have worked to navigate the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including increased unemployment rates. Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, Action Inc organized a shelter at the Cape Ann YMCA, which the Grace Center provided instrumental support for with daytime staffing. Action Inc helped lead the charge with Mayor Romeo Theken to offer expanded services for those experiencing homelessness in Gloucester, and has a waitlist of people they will be referring to the Grace Center in the coming months.
“We are so glad that our facility is going to be used to help our community this winter and make a meaningful difference for the people that are facing serious hardships, especially with the pandemic ongoing,” Gloucester House owner Lenny Linquata said. “Gloucester is a strong, close knit community, and the Mayor and Lifebridge did tremendous work to make this all possible– we’re proud to be able to do our part, too.”
The City is continuing to seek out partnerships to further support community members facing hardships this winter, and private businesses who would like to help or with ideas are encouraged to contact the Mayor’s Office at 978-281-9700.
About the Grace Center
The Grace Center is a day resource center that serves those in need of a safe and supportive environment, and provides daily breakfast and lunch meals. The nonprofit also connects those experiencing homelessness with services and referrals to partner agencies which provide mental health and substance abuse treatment, medical care, job training, housing and more.
In 2018, Grace Center merged with Lifebridge, a long-established and respected provider of services to homeless and vulnerable people on the North Shore, which has enabled Grace Center to sustain and grow its services while maintaining its unique Gloucester and Cape Ann identity. The Grace Center Advisory Committee, made up of local individuals who steered the program through its early years, remains an active and enthusiastic advocate for our guests in the community. The Mayor has been a steadfast supporter and advocate for Grace Center throughout this past decade