We often use this space to tell the government what we think it ought to do, and sometimes we use it when we want to call attention to someone doing something wrong.

On occasion, probably not often enough, we use it when we have caught someone in the act of doing good, and this is one of those times.

Freedom Place on State Street in Portland is a new transitional housing program for women who were homeless or are recovering from substance use disorder. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Developer Kevin Bunker chose to enrich his community instead of enriching himself, turning a historic brick building in Portland’s West End into a 38-unit transitional housing complex for homeless women who are dealing with substance use disorder.

Bunker owned the former parochial school on State Street, and he could have turned it into the kind of high-end condominiums that are getting snapped up in the red-hot local real estate market. But instead, he chose a more complicated and less lucrative route, working with the public sector and nonprofit groups to fill a need and save lives.

“The more I thought about it, the more I thought we could do something a little more interesting than condos,” Bunker told Press Herald reporter Eric Russell. “More and more, I’ve found that, as a developer, you can do cool things that also benefit the community.”

Developers are often cast as villains when communities struggle with issues like affordable housing, homelessness and displacement. But Bunker has shown that his work developing market-rate housing and commercial projects in and around the city has not deterred his firm, Developers Collaborative, from building senior and workforce housing, often while preserving historic buildings.

The new project, Freedom Place, meets several community needs.

Drug overdose deaths have continued at epidemic levels as the COVID pandemic forces isolation, anxiety and stressed social services. Substance use also contributes to the region’s enormous homelessness crisis, which includes people living on the street as well as those who have been temporarily housed in hotels using temporary COVID relief funds.

Bunker didn’t do it on his own. The project was made possible with the use of historic preservation tax credits, which are available from both the state and federal government.

MaineHousing, the state’s housing authority, committed to providing 25 housing vouchers for people who stay in the facility. Amistad, a social service agency that provides support for people in recovery, will deliver services to residents.

Bringing these interests together will provide much-needed stable housing for a vulnerable population in an area that is rapidly becoming too expensive for people who need access to social services.

It’s important to note that the overdose crisis is something that’s not just a headline to Bunker. Freedom Place is named for Freedom Hamlin. His former partner and the mother of his teenage daughter, she died from an overdose of fentanyl while the project was under development.

Many Maine families are also grieving these days, and wish they could spare others the pain they are feeling. With this project, Bunker demonstrates that there are many ways to make a difference and set a good example for us all.


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