October 1, 2012

New Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter to host open house; guests arrive within few weeks

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- The new Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter on Colby Street will host an open house next week with a speech by Gov. Paul R. LePage, former co-chairman of the shelter's board of directors.

click image to enlarge

Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter Executive Director Betty Palmer gave a tour of the new shelter in Waterville last week. Palmer is speaking in the shelter’s multipurpose room.

Staff photo by David Leaming

click image to enlarge

One of the women’s dormitory sleeping rooms at the new Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter.

Staff photo by David Leaming

The 40-bed shelter, built with nearly $3 million in contributions from businesses and individuals, replaces an 18-bed shelter on Ticonic Street.

Guests are scheduled to move to the new shelter within a couple of weeks, according to shelter officials.

"The community was so generous," said Betty Palmer, the shelter's executive director. "We really got a Cadillac for less than Cadillac price because everyone was so generous, including contractors, subcontractors. Amazing generosity."

Sheridan Corp., of Fairfield, was the general contractor for the construction project, which started in March.

A jubilant Palmer led a tour recently through the 16,600-square-foot shelter where staff and volunteers were setting up offices, moving boxes in and waiting for installation of phone lines.

A man carried a large box containing a microwave oven through the front door. It was one of many gifts shelter officials have received during the transition.

The 8,000-square-foot first floor of the two-story building has a program resource room where guests may take classes in parenting, finances, healing arts and other topics and attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

The shelter not only houses homeless people; it also connects them with resources and helps them find jobs and places to live.

The new shelter has an administrative offices, a multipurpose room, kitchen, family living room and separate bedroom sections for men, women and families with children. Bathrooms with showers, laundry rooms and a resource library also are on the first floor.

A bathroom with a shower is available for homeless people who live in abandoned buildings, under the Two-Cent Bridge and other places, according to Palmer.

"They're out there in the community and for a variety of reasons, choose not to be in the shelter," she said.

The large, freshly painted rooms have windows that overlook the railroad station to the north, Waterville District Court to the south and a wooded area to the east.

As she toured the rooms, Palmer cited homeless statistics posted in various locations.

"One in 194 people in the U.S. are homeless," she said. "One in 12 families are doubled up, meaning they live with other families. It's the economy; it's the cost of living."

Guests at the Ticonic Street shelter stay an average of 30 to 45 days, but some stay longer, she said.

"We have an increase of single dads with kids," she said. "Forty-five percent of our guests are families, 15 percent are single women, and 40 percent are single men."

The new building, on two acres, has about 25 parking spaces.

The public is welcome to attend the ceremony from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 8, at 19 Colby St., and tours will be offered 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day, according to Palmer.

"Anyone who can't make the open house can call us," she said. "We'd be glad to have the community come and see the building. To see the community and donors come in and see what they really got for their dollars -- it's huge."

The two-story, 120-year-old Ticonic Street shelter, which formerly was a home, has been sold, according to both Palmer and Kevin Joseph, chairman of the shelter's board of directors.

Joseph said Wednesday that he has put out a challenge to raise money for a new $50,000 elevator for the shelter, which would allow for use of the second floor, which currently is vacant.

Possible uses for that floor include housing services to augment those already available to homeless people. Joseph said the shelter also has applied for a grant that would allow it to house homeless veterans, and officials will learn the results of the application in a month or two.

"We're looking for people willing to donate $5,000 apiece for an elevator, over a five-year tax period," Joseph said. "So far, I have five people committed to this, so we're at $25,000 and we need another $25,000 in order to put the elevator in. Without an elevator, we can't do anything with the second story."

The homeless shelter serves people from Somerset, Franklin and northern Kennebec and Waldo counties and operates on about $387,000 a year. Fifty-five percent of the shelter's funding comes from individual, business and foundation donations; 11 percent from special events; and the remainder, from public assistance money.

An interfaith council of churches opened the first Waterville homeless shelter on Thanksgiving Day in 1990.

Amy Calder -- 861-9247
acalder@centralmaine.com

 

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