LEWISTON — The clock is ticking for Lewiston Housing and a coalition of social service providers who are working in overdrive to iron out specific details of a proposed new 25-bed emergency homeless shelter in the city.

They have to come up with a detailed plan and submit it to MaineHousing by May 15 if the city is to receive a $3.7 million grant to create the first low barrier, 24/7 emergency shelter in the area.

First, they have to receive approval from the city. “There’s a licensure process that’s outlined in the shelter ordinance and we’re working through the application right now and plan to submit that,” Lewiston Housing Executive Director Chris Kilmurry said.

If approved, the Lewiston Unhoused Response Center will be on Lewiston Housing property at 104 Park St., which is within the city’s approved homeless shelter overlay district. The building is the former location of the Lewiston Sun Journal and gives Kilmurry and his coalition a huge leg up in the process.

The former Sun Journal office building at 104 Park St. in Lewiston, seen in July 2022, is slated to become a 25-bed shelter. The property is owned by the Lewiston Housing Authority. The shelter will be the first of its kind in the city. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The building will require some renovation and modification to meet code requirements and the needs of the people it will serve, he said. But Kilmurry said the costs are a small portion of the $3.7 million grant.

If approved, MaineHousing requires that the new shelter be up and running by October.


Kilmurry said the funding covers mostly operational costs with close to 80% of those costs being staff-related. “Running a shelter is incredibly staff-intensive — there’s only a small portion of the money going into the building.”

Ancillary services connected with an emergency shelter are seen as an essential element of the equation. They include finding housing, case managers — who are advocates for their clients and guide them through issues like health care and other services — counseling and therapy, and substance use and abuse treatment.

The Immigrant Resource Center and Lewiston Housing will provide housing navigation services, while the Immigrant Resource Center and Community Concepts will provide the day-to-day management of the shelter. Community Clinical Services will provide case management, service coordination, therapy and counseling, and access to off-site substance abuse treatment.

The grant from MaineHousing is part of $21 million made available through the $473 million emergency energy relief bill passed by the Legislature in January to address the homelessness crisis. Kilmurry said it represents a rare opportunity for Lewiston to begin to get a handle on the scope of homelessness and to start effecting positive change for the people experiencing homelessness.

The former Sun Journal office building at 104 Park St. in Lewiston is slated to become a 25-bed shelter. The property is owned by the Lewiston Housing Authority. The shelter will be the first of its kind in the city. Judy Meyer/Sun Journal file

“This two-year, temporary, fully-funded grant that is not Lewiston taxpayer funded, is so helpful that we’ll be able to get a much more accurate sense of our homeless population — how large it is and what their specific needs are so that we can come up with a really specific plan for the long term,” Kilmurry said.

He emphasized that no decisions have been made regarding plans for a long-term shelter. “All the conversations about what the long-term solution will be are really going to be a conversation with the city and the public.”

Kilmurry said the MaineHousing grant is incredibly significant and gives the city some breathing room in an otherwise intense environment. “I think if you just walk around the streets in the town, you can see that we have an issue that is here, that is growing dramatically and there are people in need. So, this is a way for us to help those in need who are desperate right now to get those wraparound services.”

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