A warehouse at 90 Blueberry Road in Portland is expected to become a new emergency family shelter with help from a $4 million grant from MaineHousing. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

MaineHousing announced Thursday that it will provide $4 million for a proposed 280-bed emergency shelter in Portland that could be in operation as early as this spring.

The proposal calls for an existing facility at 90 Blueberry Road in Portland to be converted into an emergency shelter for families who are homeless.

It comes from the Center for Regional Prosperity, the nonprofit arm of the Greater Portland Council of Governments, which said in the proposal that it is working with Developers Collaborative, a Portland-based real estate developer.

Developers Collaborative would “fit-up” the facility and then sub-lease the space to a local nonprofit organization that would run the shelter, according to the proposal.

Ninety-three families – about 280 people per night on average – would be housed at the shelter.

“The facility will allow for community collaboration to deliver wraparound services on site,” the proposal says. “Those services will be individualized to include housing navigation, case management, life skills and immigration services. The services will evolve as needs change.”


Belinda Ray, director of strategic partnerships for the Greater Portland Council, declined to provide details about the project Thursday. She said the center applied for and was awarded the funding, but would be distributing it to another entity to execute the project.

Kevin Bunker, founder and principal at Developers Collaborative, said Thursday that the $4 million would cover the cost of build-out and some of the operations at the former furniture manufacturing facility he is eyeing for the project.

Many details are still being worked out, including what other organizations might help set up and run the shelter, Bunker said.

The proposal comes as Portland is seeing crisis levels of homelessness. The city opened its own new emergency shelter Wednesday, expanding capacity from about 300 to 350 people per night between the two city-run shelters.

That new Homeless Services Center, which will replace the city’s Oxford Street Shelter for individuals who are homeless, was also built by Developers Collaborative. Bunker said the new facility would be aimed at families.

“As you know, we’ve had 700-something people come to Portland since Jan. 1,” he said. “Obviously people are arriving in Portland faster than we can house them. The need is exacerbated and at some point we will run out of resources as a state, region and city. But right now there’s still a desire to help when we can.”


The city is currently housing about 1,100 people per night in all. Besides the two city shelters, it is using area hotels, including a hotel in Saco managed by Catholic Charities with the state’s help, as well as overflow space in a school gym.

More than 780 asylum seekers have arrived since Jan. 1.

Beds in the men’s dormitory at Portland’s new Homeless Services Center in the Riverside neighborhood of Portland on Wednesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Bunker said he hopes the proposal will ease some of the strain on the city, nonprofits and community groups.

“The existing networks are completely overwhelmed,” he said. “We’re trying to take some of the pressure off the system before it cracks.”

Asked if he would need any approvals from the city for the project, Bunker said he is still figuring that out.

Asked if the city was aware of or involved in the proposal, Mayor Kate Snyder said that any information about a possible housing solution would be subject to executive session for now.


“I can’t comment further until/unless there’s a pathway for City Council engagement,” Snyder said in a text message late Thursday.

Interim City Manager Danielle West said she was aware of the plan and the application for funds, and she plans to discuss it with the City Council on Monday night.

The Greater Portland Council of Governments is also working on its Safe in Maine project to create transitional housing for asylum seekers, though Ray said that is separate from the proposal that received funding Thursday.

The proposal was one of 17 housing and shelter projects around the state to be awarded funding from MaineHousing.

The funding is part of a winter energy relief plan approved by Gov. Janet Mills and the Maine Legislature in January. The funding was also the source of $1 million awarded last month for short-term overnight warming centers.

The $1 million included funding for a short-term emergency shelter for asylum seekers at the Salvation Army in Portland operated by the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition.


The new projects announced Thursday include $3.7 million to the Lewiston Housing Authority for a 25-bed shelter and $2 million for Community Housing of Maine for a 12-bed supportive housing project in Portland for homeless pregnant women.

Cullen Ryan, executive director of Community Housing of Maine, said the $2 million will help the group acquire and rehabilitate an existing building for transitional housing, a project they hope to have up and running within the next month and a half.

“There’s a tremendous need for people to have safe housing and supportive services,” Ryan said. “As you can see looking around the state, we’re lacking housing and lacking safe places for people to be … We want to ensure people have safe places.”

All of the projects are expected to be operational by the fall of 2023.

“I am grateful for the communities and organizations who responded to this important call and applaud MaineHousing for working so quickly to award funding,” said Mills in a statement from MaineHousing.

“Addressing Maine’s shortage of available, accessible housing and reducing burdens on communities to ensure safe, stable housing are priorities of my administration, and we will continue to work with MaineHousing, the Legislature, municipalities and others to further address this serious need.”

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