For the first time ever in the history spanning more than a century, since the establishment of the Salvation Army in Bermuda, the new Divisional Commander assigned by the Army’s head office, is a woman from Canada.
Bermuda Real can report tonight, Major Sandra Stockes, arrived in Bermuda about a week ago to take over the helm as the new Divisional Commander.
She replaces Major Frank Pittman, who left Bermuda some time ago.
We can also report that topping the list of top priorities will be to make a decision on what the Army plans to do with the proposed redevelopment to transform the former Bishop Spencer facility into a new Emergency Housing Centre for Bermuda’s homeless community.
This after Minister of Social Development and Sports, Michael Weeks, confirmed that Government has approved a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Salvation Army’s consideration.
The Army’s delayed or non-response to date, could be a direct result of the recent change of command that has yet to be officially announced by the local charity.
Either way, the record shows that to date, the Salvation Army has yet to declare their intentions on whether or not they plan to work in conjunction with Government moving forward.
Minister Weeks told MPs on the last day of proceedings in the Lower House that “the MOU seeks the agreement of the Salvation Army to be responsible for the capital redevelopment of the Bishop Spencer facility at an estimated cost of approximately $3.5M.”
Whether the Salvation Army will agree to that remains to be seen.
According to the Minister: “The MOU would commit the Government to seek approval of the Legislature to enter into a 99-year rental lease with the Salvation Army, for $1 per annum if demanded, for use of the Bishop Spencer property as an Emergency Housing Centre.”
But it comes with a price tag attached, a price tag that would make the Salvation Army “responsible for ongoing capital and operational costs of running the redeveloped facility at an estimated cost of $1,200,000 per annum”.
“Government would provide a total operating grant of $1.2M per year to Salvation Army (inclusive of capital maintenance) to cover operational costs, including staffing and programming, subject to annual review.”
The existing run-down dilapidated Emergency Housing Complex on Parson’s Road, is a 54-bed facility that offers nightly bed spaces.
Under the MOU, the redeveloped facility will increase the capacity to accomodate between 80 to 100 beds, with a portion to be used as transitional living space.
“The building would allow Salvation Army the opportunity to provide one room bachelor apartments as transitional, affordable/supportive living for individuals graduating from the Harbour Light Programme or who have moved through the emergency shelter and are ready to start transitioning back to the community.
“The expectation is that these individuals would be working and able to pay ‘affordable’ rent,” said Mr Weeks.
Under the plan, the Army’s existing programmes will be relocated to the redeveloped facility, including the Salvation Army’s Food Bank Programme and Daily Feeding Programme.
The Salvation Army has provided housing for the “homeless and marginalized members of the community at the North Street Shelter since 1982”.
Bermuda Real can also report that the new Divisional Commander arrived to find the Army’s Family Services without a Manager, who was made redundant, without a full plan moving forward.
We have been following that story exclusively for months, to date, we have yet to receive a response to our inquiries from the Salvation Army’s head office in Canada, or any executive in Bermuda, or Government.
Now that we’re into the month of August, either way, it would appear that there will be no physical movement towards any redevelopment on this side of 2018.
The Family Services deadline to move into high gear for their biggest annual family support programme of the year, that provides Christmas hampers and gifts by Santa Anonymous for countless families in need, at the end of October.
In November each year, the entire department moves to the Botanical Gardens and back before Christmas and the end of the year.
Logistically, at this point, it would not be logical to make any physical moves between now and then.
And logistically, without a Family Services Manager at the helm of this major community support programme , for the first time in nearly two decades, how that will pan out remains to be seen.
The Ministerial Statement was delivered on Friday, July 27. To date there has yet to be an official response the Salvation Army’s executive, or the new Divisional Commander in Bermuda, or the Army’s headquarters in Canada.
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