Word that Loaves & Fishes Hospitality House plans to move out of the Richmond Citizen Center in New Milford has prompted strong reaction.

For 20 years, the soup kitchen has operated in the basement of the building also housing the town's Social Services and Senior Center.

Last year, Loaves & Fishes co-founder Biddy Roger and her husband, John, stepped down from their respective roles as president and vice president.

Their daughter, Molly Sherman, now the corporate secretary, said Loaves & Fishes is launching a capital campaign to purchase a permanent home.

Mayor Pat Murphy has pledged to help them find a new location.

The town needs the space now occupied in the Richmond Citizen Center, Mrs. Sherman said. And Loaves & Fishes wants to grow its offerings.

Yet for Karl Myers, board president of the New Milford Homeless Shelter Coalition, the mayor's offer appears hollow.

"I'm angry at the mayor. She's taking advantage of the changing of the guard to cover her failed economic plan," Mr. Myers said. "The mayor said she had someone interested in the (former) CVS building on Main Street but they saw all of the people hanging around on the Green and the deal fell through.

"Those people she sees on the Green are the people of her town," he said.

Mr. Myers reported the shelter coalition is providing beds for 10 to 16 people a night.

The mayor confirmed a potential tenant for the CVS building lost interest after visiting the site. The reason given, she said, was the presence of the homeless on the Green.

The mayor added she does not want to seem hard-hearted. She said she wants to see those in need receiving help -- including shelter, food and counseling.

The mayor said that is why she and councilwoman Katy Francis approached Faith Church about property where Loaves & Fishes might build a regional shelter, she said.

The church was amenable, Mayor Murphy added.

"If they regionalize, they would be available for state and federal funding," the mayor said. "I know their original mission statement speaks of having a drop-in center. The town wouldn't be able to offer enough space for expansion where they are now."

The Rev. Michael Moran of the First Congregational Church, head of New Milford's Clergy Association, also is a member of the town's Commission on Aging.

"I know the Senior Center is starved for space," Rev. Moran said Tuesday. "Last year, the Senior Advisory Board wrote a letter to the commission saying they need to expand."

The number of seniors in town is growing and some programs are canceled or not implemented due to space issues, he added.

"The clergy in New Milford has always valued what Loaves & Fishes has done," Rev. Moran said. "We would love to help them find a solution, find a new space.

"But there really are not a lot of choices and, then, there's not really a lot of money," he added. "We've been running into that issue in trying to find a permanent home for the shelter."

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322