FARMINGTON — MaineHousing has awarded Western Maine Community Action a $7 million grant from American Rescue Plan Act to build affordable housing and emergency shelter space in Farmington.

The grant will help convert two properties in order to serve individuals in the region who are homeless, at risk of losing housing or struggling with housing instability.

Western Maine Community Action is one of just three organizations in the state given a total of $13.2 million in grants by MaineHousing. According to MaineBiz, Western Maine Community Action received the largest on.

The organization was launched in 1965 and offers services for energy and utilities, cell phone assistance, health and nutrition, and housing.

Before the grant, it was working through MaineHousing’s Emergency Shelter and Housing Assistance Program to provide services to individuals experiencing homelessness, Family and Health Service Director Kobi Perry said in an interview.

Those services include emergency rental assistance, providing rental vouchers that can help individuals get an apartment or a room in a motel for 12 months.


While the emergency rental assistance has been an essential part of Western Maine Community Action’s housing services, the program comes with difficulties for the agency.

Perry said it’s a struggle to find apartments in the region at any price point, let alone apartments and landlords who accept tenants that can be covered by the vouchers, which is “much, much lower than fair-market value.”

“There’s more people looking for housing than there is housing available,” Perry said.

And even motel placements are difficult, especially in the summertime when most places are filled up, she said.

Additionally, Perry said Emergency Shelter and Housing Assistance is not a permanent program and is set to run out of money in the near future.

“Once that’s gone, we don’t have any place for these folks to go,” Perry said.


She added that sometimes Western Maine Community Action is able to find people housing elsewhere in Maine. However, local people rarely want to leave their lives in Franklin County behind.

In the face of these difficulties, the agency has been awarded the grant to be able to offer permanent, stable, affordable housing to locals.

“It was really important for us to diversify our offerings to clients to include affordable housing, because they want to stay here and we want them to stay here,” Perry said. “We want our clients to get stable housing so they can rejoin the workforce.”

Perry was visibly emotional talking about how the federal grant will foster change in Franklin County.

“(People in poverty) are some of the most generous people out there. And if they can have this home base, then they will be more prepared to be able to help others,” Perry said while tearing up. “When I think about the impact that this could have on community members to have stable housing, it’s amazing. I was so excited.”

Executive Director Jim Trundy said he views the grant as “the final piece of putting our homelessness on the right track.”


“To say that we were excited (to receive the grant) would be a huge understatement,” Trundy said.

“We’re great proponents of housing choice and this will just be another choice for people,” Perry added.

He said the purchase of two properties in the area is underway.

Western Maine Community Action plans to finish “rehabbing” the units around a year from now.

The properties will include 31 units that are a mixture of studio, one-, two- or three-bedroom apartments. Additionally, Perry said there will be three bedrooms for noncongregate emergency shelter – a particular need in Franklin County, where there has not been a homeless shelter since 2020.

The Western Maine Homeless Outreach shelter was forced to close in March 2020 at Living Waters Assembly of God in Farmington because the lease was expiring and the inability to operate under COVID-19 guidelines, according to the Franklin Journal’s Andrea Swiedom.


In the years that have followed, local advocates of housing-insecure people have made attempts to reopen a local shelter, but none have panned out yet.

Perry and Trundy said housing-insecure people in Franklin County face unique challenges – the aforementioned housing shortage, lack of public transportation and child care-providers shortage amid rising costs of living, to name just a few.

Perry said Western Maine Community Action serves over 90 homeless households in Franklin County (about 45 of whom are currently “on the street”) whether with the emergency rental assistance or other programs.

“(Western Maine Community Action’s housing) will be small,” Perry acknowledged. “But for the people that access those services, it’ll be a powerful step up.”

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