Bread of Life Ministries plans to turn 147 Riverside Drive, left, and 141 Riverside Drive in Augusta into a community living facility for veterans and others struggling to recover from substance abuse. The buildings would house a total of 16 people and could open as early as this spring, officials said. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — A vacant former medical office building on Riverside Drive will soon become a 16-bed Bread of Life Ministries community-supported living facility.

The Augusta Planning Board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a conditional use permit for the facility, which will consist of two living arrangements that each house eight people and are overseen by one to two staff members.

The plan is aimed at helping veterans and others recover from addiction and trauma so they can maintain stable housing.

The facility is expected to open in the spring, after renovations, according to Victoria Abbott, executive director of Bread of Life Ministries. She said the first of the two community living arrangements will be focused on veterans needing recovery supports.

Two apartments on the upper floor of the 147 Riverside Drive building will continue to serve as residential apartments and will be filled as soon as the purchase goes through.

Bread of Life Ministries has been a presence in Augusta for 40 years and operates a 44-bed family homeless shelter and 14-bed veterans homeless shelter on Hospital Street, a soup kitchen on Water Street that serves about 110 people a day and 83 housing units across the city. Abbott said the new facility will help address the ongoing crisis of a lack of housing in Augusta, and elsewhere in Maine.


“This project is meant to help address the housing crisis that we have, with these community living arrangements,” Abbott said. “It will be a multi-family unit to help get people housing in the community.”

She said the facility will offer programming to help people become successful and reintegrate into society independently, with case management, group therapy and addiction recovery services offered in a safe, supported living environment.

Board members approved a conditional use application for the proposal, which is in the city’s local business, or CB, district, in a 5-0 vote Tuesday.

Victoria Abbott, executive director of Bread of Life Ministries, speaks Oct. 5 outside the Bread of Life Soup Kitchen in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I would like to see this building converted to some housing,” said board member Mandy Massey.

No members of the public spoke up either for or against the project at Tuesday’s public hearing.

Betsy Poulin, city planner, said the city received an anonymous email, titled “neighbor watch,” from an email address which included a common zip code for Augusta, 04330, and “safetywatch.”


The email, Poulin said, stated “They should not waste the taxpayers’ time and money with agenda 4,” which was the Bread of Life proposal. “See attached for the response to Bread of Life from the 04330 watch program that is going to clean Augusta up, thank you.”

However, Poulin said she was unable to open the attached document. She asked the sender to bring in a copy of the document, but she did not receive a response back.

The facility, to be called “ARTs House,” will have kitchen space for the two separate community living arrangement units on the first floor. ART stands for Addiction, Recovery and Trauma, Abbott said.

The property is across the street from a mobile home park. Poulin described the neighborhood as mostly residential on the western side of Riverside Drive, and mostly commercial on the east side, where the property is located.

In application materials filed with the city, Bread of Life officials stated the services offered by the privately funded nonprofit organization “are part of a holistic package that begins with addressing food security, safe shelter, case management and then transitioning onto more permanent housing. We have a high success rate with our programming and work closely with many local community diversion programs.”

Bread of Life Ministries has purchased 147 Riverside Drive and an adjacent building and plans to turn them into a community living facility for veterans and others struggling to recover from substance abuse. The Augusta Planning Board unanimously approved a conditional use permit for the facility this week. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“The addition of this property will further help the housing crisis we currently face as well as provide community living arrangements for those that need extra assistance and 24/7 staff onsite in a safe and secure location,” application materials stated.


Bread of Life has an agreement to purchase the property, as well as the adjacent 141 Riverside Drive, for $525,000, according to application documents filed with the city.

The use of the 141 Riverside Drive property, which currently appears vacant but was previously the site of a karate studio, is not changing and thus was not subject to review by the board, Poulin said.

Abbott said 141 Riverside Drive will need renovations to meet life safety codes. She said that work will take place after ARTs House opens at 147 Riverside.

Poulin said the two properties share a parking lot and there may be an opportunity to improve pedestrian safety in the area by reducing the number of access points into the property from Riverside Drive. Bob Corey, chairman of the board, suggested Bread of Life officials work with the city engineer to see if pedestrian safety can be improved as part of the project.

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