May 25, 2018
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Rockland teen shelter wins board approval

Bangor Daily News

ROCKLAND, Maine – A gracious-looking 100-year-old home will be pressed into service to provide night shelter for homeless teenagers.

After a public hearing Tuesday, the planning board unanimously approved a site plan for an eight-bed youth shelter at 58 Brewster St.

Rockport architect Eric A. Beckstrom reviewed the plans for the shelter, which will have four beds upstairs and four beds downstairs for preteens and teenagers to rest their heads at night.

Some of the teens come from families that have some challenges, he said of the youths.

“In a nutshell, they come in at 8 o’ clock in the evening and leave at 8 in the morning,” he said. “It’ s really a safe, dry place for them, with supervision by an adult to take care of them.”

Home Counselors Inc. of Rockland owns the Brewster Street building and uses it for other programs that will be discontinued at the site owing to regulations set by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. The license allows only a shelter at the facility site.

“It’ s a great old 100-year-old house with some nice lines to it,” said Beckstrom. The building is located on a half-acre corner lot at Brewster and Maverick streets. An existing garage will be razed to make room for four parking spaces, which the board approved Tuesday.

The periphery of the lot is tree-lined, he pointed out.

The site plan calls for keeping two bedrooms upstairs in the house and building a 998-square-foot one-story addition on the back to make room for two more bedrooms, a mud room and two handicapped-accessible bathrooms on the lower level. The existing house is 1,150 square feet.

A Brewster Street door leading to the kitchen will be sealed and replaced by a window, and a door will be kept going to the back court, he said.

A new stairway will be built to replace a curved stairway which doesn’ t meet building code, he said.

The building will be equipped with a sprinkler system for fire protection.

Board members concerned about mixing genders in the shelter were assured that the upstairs would be gender-specific, but not the downstairs, which would have two bathrooms.

The developer estimates $135,000 for construction costs, including the price of installing the sprinkler system, and seven months until completion, Beckstrom said.

The Breakwater Homeless Teen Project is a program of Home Counselors Inc., a licensed mental health center in Rockland which provides child welfare, behavioral health and mental health services to children and families in midcoast and central Maine.

The project consists of the youth shelter and Homeless Youth Outreach.

According to the mission statement, the youth shelter would provide safe, supervised overnight accommodations to homeless children and serve as a starting place for children and families to address problems.

Home Counselors Inc. operates a 16-bed shelter at the city-owned 218 Main St. building, said Sydne Matus, youth coordinator at the shelter, which has been in operation since Christmas Eve 2001.

Since that time, the shelter has housed more than 210 different boys and girls, provided more than 5,800 bed nights, and 11,000 meals to teenagers. More than 24 percent of the guests are age 14 or younger, and 60 percent come from Knox County, she said.

In February, John K. Hanson Jr., publisher of Maine Boats, Harbors and Homes magazine of Camden, was awarded a contract to buy the properties at 212, 216 and 218 Main St. and move his operation from Camden.

At the time of the award, the City Council and Hanson agreed to postpone the sale until December to give the youth shelter time to find a new home.

During the public hearing, Harold Rohn of 45 Brewster St. asked whether the children would be supervised after school. Matus said that right now the children may not be there until 8 p.m., but she said she hopes to have an earlier time approved by DHHS. The youths would be supervised whenever they are at the shelter, she said.

The planning board reviewed the city’ s standards for a site plan and approved the application.

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