Amherst homeless shelter pioneer Kevin Noonan quits

Posted: 05/25/2022 09:11:59

AMHERST — A resident who has twice overseen housing efforts for the homeless in the community, including pioneering work when Amherst in 2009 offered its first site for people to stay warm and safe during the months of cold weather, leaves his post again.

Kevin Noonan recently stepped down as executive director of Craig’s Doors: A Home Association Inc., a role he returned to in the fall of 2019 following the departure of the previous management team.

Denise Barberet, administrator and deputy general manager, and Jeremiah Blankenbaker, who held the position of director of operations, also left the agency at this time.

Gerry Weiss, chairman of the board of Craig’s Doors, said the decision was based on a desire to have new management moving forward, and the ad will soon be looking for a new executive director.

“In the meantime, the board and various staff will manage all aspects of the agency’s operation,” Weiss said. “We do not expect ongoing services to be affected by this change.”

Noonan, 66, was instrumental in launching what was called “the warming place” in 2009 and in founding Craig’s Doors in 2011 to operate a full fledged refuge. The agency takes its name from the late Craig D. Lorraine, a Navy veteran who had stayed at the shelter and was known to play the marimba on the streets of Northampton.

In a reflection submitted to the Gazette, Noonan wrote that he is proud to live in a community that has been so supportive of the work done on behalf of vulnerable people.

“Throughout this crisis, Craig’s Doors not only kept people from freezing to death, but we did what we could to protect them from a deadly virus that has already killed one million people in the United States and nearly 6.3 million worldwide,” Noonan wrote. “It was a worthy struggle, although whatever resources we were able to obtain would have gladly been returned for those precious lives that were lost.”

Over the past two and a half years, Craig’s Doors has grown from 28 people it could serve overnight to 70 who are helped daily. While the emergency overnight shelter continued to be based in one or more churches in Amherst, the agency was also able to rent rooms in local hotels to provide people with more permanent living arrangements and facilitate the transition to supportive housing.

Deputy CEO David Ziomek praised the agency for its work with the homeless.

“Craig’s Doors has done a tremendous job keeping people safe and sheltered during the pandemic and we will work to support their mission going forward,” Ziomek said.

Ziomek said he expects the good working relationship to continue under new leadership.

Noonan’s expertise previously included serving as manager of the Open Pantry soup kitchen in Springfield for 20 years, before joining Amherst’s Committee on Homelessness and becoming involved in identifying the First Baptist Church. as a potential site for a refuge in 2009, where the Center for Human Development site opened in December.

Noonan has also launched a year-round weekly Wednesday morning breakfast at the Unitar Meetinghouse.

When he first left the post in 2014, he became director of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants field office in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he spent five years.

Scott Merzbach can be contacted at [email protected]