PORTLAND — It may be March before the public can weigh in on where the city puts a new shelter and service center for the homeless.
But as members of the City Council Health & Humans Services and Public Safety committees winnow down a list of 14 potential locations presented by city staff, details about potential partnerships for specialized housing and services are coming into focus.
Councilor Belinda Ray, the committee chairwoman, and Councilors Pious Ali and Brian Batson began discussing the site list Jan. 22, noting that nothing is final.
Plans still call for the city to build a 150-bed shelter and service center, but the first and fastest site eliminated was the Barron Center property on Brighton Avenue.
“If we can just cross it off the list right now, it would be wonderful,” said Batson, who serves the district and has opposed the site from the time it was proposed last summer.
The Barron Center, however, remains a potential spot for Avesta Housing to provide homes and care for people who are 55 and older.
On Jan. 22, Avesta President and CEO Dana Totman said the nonprofit is continuing to explore how to finance construction and provide services for a 15-bed assessment center, 30-unit housing-first development and 36-unit assisted-living facility.
The newest shelter proposal revealed Jan. 22 would be a partnership at 66 State St. between Developers Collaborative and Amistad, which offers peer support and recovery services.
Developers Collaborative principal Kevin Bunker owns the building, which is now shared by Amistad and Catholic Charities of Maine. While understanding the Amistad peer services would have to move, Bunker said he and Amistad Executive Director Brian Townsend would like to convert the building to housing.
“We are proposing to have ready-made housing for women with peer supports built in,” Townsend said.
Bunker said while converting the building to housing, he also plans to build an apartment building could also house women who are ready to move on from the Amistad program.
Townsend said Amistad expanded to include recovery housing for women two years ago and welcomes the new concept.
Preble Street Resource Center is also looking to build a specialized shelter for women. The nonprofit is now assessing the community needs and will include input from residents of Florence House on Valley Street in the process.
The Opportunity Alliance and Community Housing of Maine also hope for city assistance with land for a 15-bed home for people needing mental health, and possibly substance use disorder services.
“It is not a shelter, we are very much a treatment facility,” Opportunity Alliance President and CEO Mike Tarpinian said.
Opportunity Alliance is already shifting The Bridge services on Maple Street to Brighton Avenue in Nason’s Corner, while adding three beds to bring its capacity to 15.
Tarpinian and CHOM Executive Director Cullen Ryan said the agencies may combine to build and operate a new facility separate from The Bridge.
Ryan said Jan. 24 the agency is will explore other opportunities on city land, to build integrated housing for people who have been long-term shelter guests.
“Essentially, we welcome homeless populations into all of our housing,” he said of more than 75 CHOM housing developments in Maine merging housing and services.
Now home to services provided by Amistad and Catholic Charities of Maine, 66 State St. in Portland could become housing for homeless women who need help for mental health or substance use disorders.
Amistad Director Brian Townsend and developer Kevin Bunker said Jan. 24 they are ready to team up to provide housing and services for at least 40 women at 66 State St. in Portland.