City of Newburgh — For almost 25 years, the Newburgh Ministry has been a modest way station for the city's poorest.

City of Newburgh — For almost 25 years, the Newburgh Ministry has been a modest way station for the city's poorest.

Down-and-out residents could find a hot cup of coffee there, and some basics — a roll of toilet paper, used clothes, advice on where to sign up for welfare — but little else. Doors closed at 5.

Slowly, though, the ministry's ambitions have grown. Three years ago, the former sewing machine factory at Johnston and Broadway left its lights on all night during Lent.

During the past two years, the ministry offered couches and floor space to the homeless every night all winter long.

Now the ministry is planning a $1.5 million renovation to turn its unused second floor into a year-round homeless shelter.

Although there have been other facilities in Newburgh that have offered housing to homeless people, this would be the city's first traditional homeless shelter, offering first-come, first-served beds.

"It was a difficult time making this decision," said Roger Ramjug, a member of the ministry's board of directors. "But the response so far has been tremendous."

The last push to have a traditional homeless shelter in Newburgh was in 2002 when the Middletown Emergency Housing Group proposed a shelter on Washington Street.

City officials and downtown businesses joined forces to defeat that project.

But the ministry's proposal — which would create room for 19 beds for men and five for women — is proving popular.

The ministry's executive director, Jim McElhinney, has collected letters of support from Mayor Nick Valentine, Rep. Maurice Hinchey, Assemblyman Tom Kirwan, state Sen. Bill Larkin and Roman Catholic Bishop Dominick Lagonegro, among others.

Those letters are part of an extensive application for funding to the state's Homeless Housing and Assistance Corp. due in Albany today.

"I think this is totally different (from the 2002 proposal)," Valentine said. "When you have the religious community backing something like this as opposed to a company or corporation that does homelessness for a living, it's totally different."

The ministry's two-year experiment with shelter work, dubbed the Winterhaven program, is also likely to head off controversy.

"There have been no problems with that," said Valentine, whose tailor shop is just blocks away. "I have heard no complaints from anybody."

McElhinney said he expects to know in October whether the state will finance the shelter.