The Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter at 19 Colby St. was built for 48 beds, officials said, but now serves more than 80 people a night. Morning Sentinel file

WATERVILLE — The City Council voted 6-0 on Tuesday to approve a request by the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter to use $200,000 in American Rescue Plan Act money for shelter operating costs, instead of using the money for its original intent: A master leasing program to help keep people housed.

Katie Spencer White, the shelter’s president and CEO, told councilors  that since the state awarded the $200,000 in 2021, there has been a significant increase in demand for emergency shelter and operating costs have grown. To stay afloat until further funding is available, she said, the shelter need use the ARPA money to help cover operating costs.

“The cost of delivering shelter services has dramatically increased,” she said.

Without using the $200,000 for operating costs, White said, shelter officials would have to consider the prospect of removing a first shift of workers, which would mean people living at the shelter would be required to leave after breakfast and return in the evening.

“If nothing changes, we would have to look at closing later this year,” she said.

State Rep. Colleen Madigan, D-Waterville, urged that the City Council approve the change in funding, saying there are two crises contributing to the problem: A housing crisis and a substance use disorder crisis.


The Waterville shelter is a low-barrier shelter, meaning it welcomes people with substance use issues, criminal backgrounds and other issues. It also allows people to bring their animals to live at the shelter.

More funding is needed for low-barrier shelters than for high-barrier shelters, according to Madigan, who represents Waterville and part of Winslow. A bill before the Maine Legislature would increase such funding, but it could be months before the money is available, according to Madigan and White.

“I’m in support of our shelter using the ARPA funds for another program because I think it’s very important that we support the work they did,” Madigan, a licensed clinical social worker, said.

A homeless encampment, photographed Wednesday afternoon, appears to have been abandoned at Head of Falls, along the Kennebec River in Waterville. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

State Rep. Bruce White, a Democrat representing part of Waterville in District 65, said he supported the funding change.

“Now that you know what they are facing, fortunately you are able to pivot and help them without any added cost to the city,” he said.

Katie Spencer White said the shelter was built for 48 beds and now serves more than 80 people a night, so all involved need discuss how to meet the increased demand. Five years ago, the shelter served 40 or 50 people a night, she said.

Council Chairwoman Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, said that in 2021, the council allocated $400,000 in ARPA money to the shelter, $200,000 of which was for housing diversion — helping to keep people housed and thus, out of the shelter. The other $200,000 was for the master leasing program, which allowed the shelter to work with landlords to help keep people housed.

The Rev. Maureen Ausbrook and Nancy Sanford of Starfish Village Ministry, which helps keep people housed, also urged the council to approve the homeless shelter’s request.

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