Funding uncertainty delays Portland shelter design process

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PORTLAND — The bid process for design services for a new emergency homeless shelter has been halted.

“It was postponed to prevent the potential bidders from doing a lot of work that may not be necessary,” city spokeswoman Julie Sullivan said in a Dec. 27 email.

Sullivan, the special advisor to City Manager Jon Jennings, said the request-for-bids process was postponed indefinitely while the city considers how a new shelter may be funded.

“The city is working to determine the best method of financing a shelter and may decide that a public-private model is the best option,” Sullivan said. “Various financing options would change what the city would need from an architect.”

Bids were supposed to be opened Dec. 19, 2017, for services related to designing a single shelter with at least 186 beds (60 for women), open 24 hours a day, with space to provide medical, mental health and substance use disorder services.

A new shelter would also include a laundry room, storage lockers and a kitchen with the capacity to prepare meals for 200 people.

A new shelter will not be built in Bayside, where the Oxford Street Homeless Shelter now operates. Last June, councilors approved zoning amendments to allow shelters as a conditional use in business and light industrial areas throughout the city.

Sullivan said the intent to build a single shelter has not changed. 

At a Dec. 11 City Council workshop, Department of Health & Human Services Director Dawn Stiles said she hoped a design firm would be selected by the middle of this month. At the same workshop, Jennings said a new shelter could cost as much as $10 million.

Jennings allocated $125,000 for shelter planning in the current capital improvements budget. 

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.