FARMINGTON — Since opening four months ago, Western Maine Homeless Outreach has expanded to accept families with fathers instead of just women with children.

The homeless shelter’s board is also hoping to secure enough volunteers and funding to open 24 hours a day.

For now, the Farmington shelter, in the basement of the Living Waters Assembly of God Church, is open from 4:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. It also stays open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the day, said Emily Chaney, shelter manager.

“We’re hoping to expand that to every day, because they really have nowhere to go during the day,” Chaney said Thursday.

The number of people being served by the shelter changes each day, and Chaney said there have been nights with all 16 beds filled, while other nights there have been just two people staying at the shelter. Originally, shelter staff planned to concentrate on serving women with children, but broadened its policy to include fathers after seeing number of two-parent families in need.

“Our priority is still moms and kids, but we are now more open to whole families. It’s really about meeting the need in the area,” Chaney said.

Chaney said she is working with area groups to set up day programming for shelter guests. For now, she is also doubling as a case manager but the shelter plans to eventually also hire a case worker.

“We use case management to assess where they’re at, and for us to support and encourage them along the way,” she said.

Organizations that do programming at the shelter include Children’s Task Force, Literacy Volunteers and shelter staff are working with the Healthy Community Coalition to set up nutrition programming.

Before the shelter opened in the Wilton Road church basement in November, people with no housing in the county had few options. Living Waters sheltered an occasional person in a room for church guests in the basement. Outreach workers directed people to out-of-county shelters, while some groups put people up in motels on as temporary basis.

The shelter board of directors hope to eventually fund large expenses like installing a sprinkler system, which would allow the shelter to house more people. But for now Chaney said they just want to raise enough money to cover their day-to-day expenses.

Along with cash donations, one of the shelter’s biggest needs is for gift cards for gas, because transportation is a major expense the shelter guests struggle with.

The shelter is also looking for outdoor play equipment for the children during the summer. Other ongoing needs include donations of toilet paper, baby wipes, Lysol spray, coffee, sugar, diapers, juice and milk.

The issue of homeless families in central Maine is getting more attention recently. The shelter at Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Skowhegan, which only accepts men, announced last month that it’s expanding to accept families. New Hope Shelter in Solon also houses women and children. It has the capacity for 12, but will expand this year to 32.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252 [email protected]