Tedford to combine Brunswick shelters, add beds

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BRUNSWICK — Tedford Housing will launch a capital campaign early next year to double the number of beds offered at the nonprofit’s emergency shelters by replacing its two aging facilities with a new building.

The agency can only accommodate a fraction of the homeless population in need of housing at the Federal and Cumberland Street shelters, according to Executive Director Craig Phillips.

Early conceptual plans call for consolidating the agency’s two shelters into one facility. The change will include expanded resources and services for the area’s rising homeless population.

“It’s not just providing a roof and a cot each day,” Phillips said in an interview Monday. “It’s to understand why the household has become homeless.”

To that end, he envisions the new building will “link beds” with services such as career planning, medical clinics, and support for recovering addicts.

The seeds for expansion stem from an internal needs assessment that began in 2012; building on those findings, Tedford hired the Portland-based firm Planning Decisions last summer to study the capacity issues and plan for a solution.

The studies found what was already obvious to employees: there are not enough beds to meet the area’s need.

Only around 10 percent of families and single persons who call Tedford are offered accommodations at the Federal Street and Cumberland Street shelters, Phillips said.

The former offers six apartment-style units for families, and the latter provides beds to 12 men and four women in separate dormitories.

Those buildings, he said, are also “worn out” from the amount of traffic and turn-over. Each location is about 100 years old, and keeping them in shape presents a moral, logistical challenge, as the decision to do repair work means delaying a homeless person or family from finding shelter.

Guests stay at the shelters until they find a new home, where they are assisted by agency case workers; Phillips said the rate of turnover for families is about three times a year, where for individuals it is about seven.

The new building would “essentially double” placements for both, he said.

The new, consolidated shelter is still a ways off, and concrete plans or a fundraising figure have yet to be refined. Phillips declined to offer an early estimate.

It’s slated, however, to be built in or around the same downtown neighborhoods, he said, which is within walking distance to amenities and resources such as the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, the Gathering Place, Hannaford, and bus stops.

Phillips said the agency is looking for a site – “a tough road so far” in the crowded downtown – but the hope is to launch a capital campaign to raise money for the building as early as next January.

Yet these days, the “core” of Tedford’s work happens outside of the shelters, Phillips said – in part because of shelter capacity limits, but also due to its more comprehensive mission to combat the root causes of homelessness.

Since it was founded 30 years ago, “(We’ve) really grown to become a community outreach resource because we end up serving more people outside of a shelter than inside,” he explained.

In addition to the emergency shelters, Tedford owns and manages 39 “supported” apartment units, and employs five case workers who work to provide resources and action plans for the hundreds of homeless who are unable to find a bed at the emergency shelter. A sixth case worker is dedicated to working with homeless students in the three high schools in the greater Brunswick area.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

The Tedford Housing emergency family shelter, on Federal Street in Brunswick. The agency plans to launch a capital campaign next year to double its shelter beds by eventually replacing its Federal Street and Cumberland Street shelters with a new, larger building.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.
  • Chew H Bird

    Perhaps the sleep pods I have read about overseas might serve for emergency beds in the winter. While not appropriate for family use, they are appropriate for short term emergency assistance and their cost can be integrated into a centralized solution.

    The real focus, in my uneducated opinion, is to find ways to boost the economics of people in need so valid and necessary service organizations like Tedford can work themselves out of a job (which is the goal).

    I fundamentally disagree with the “same area” concept as downtown real estate is “prime” real estate which is capable of providing a high return for the tax dollar. However, I do agree that access to town needs to be available and by centralizing existing transportation routes and locating a reasonably short distance away from downtown I suspect Tedford could obtain more for their money and tax revenue that might otherwise be lost might offset transportation fees.

    I’m just thinking out loud… Or, if we could get rid of the train barn that would hold a whole lot of people… J/K