BY STEVE COLHOUN
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
EAST MACHIAS — Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, a shelter for abused women and their children is slated to open in Machias within two years, under the direction of the Lifespring Chapel of East Machias.
According to Douglas Watermolen, pastor of Lifespring Chapel, 96 incidents of domestic violence were reported to police in Washington County in 2006. Authorities estimate that only 10 percent of cases are reported, he noted, adding that he sees two or three peoples a month who are victims of physical or emotional abuse. Economic hardship and substance abuse often cause family problems, he said recently.
The site planned for the Washington County Women’s Shelter, on Cooper Street near the police station, was formerly the Marshall Manor assisted living center. Plans are to convert the building’s 13,000 square feet and 53 rooms into eight apartments, Watermolen said. Renovations should begin next spring, he said, and be finished in nine to 12 months.
Architect Peter Bethems of Gardiner is designing the alterations at no cost, and the blueprint will include an independent day care facility for children of the shelter’s residents in addition to youngsters from the community at large.
Machias Town Manager and code officer Betsy Fitzgerald emphasizes that the building will need “a considerable amount of renovations,” but said a shelter is a great use of the property. “There are not a lot of options” for women in abusive situations,” she said. “If women know that they have a place to go, they’ll be less likely to stay in a bad living environment.”
Tammy Knight, a representative of the state Office of Community Development in Augusta, outlined funding proposals for the shelter at a Wednesday afternoon meeting at Lifespring Chapel. With Watermolen’s projected startup budget of $500,000, she said, the organization will have to raise more than $80,000 to qualify for a $350,000 Community Development Block Grant, administered through OCD from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
A letter of intent will need to be filed in December, and the final application for the CDBG award will be due in January.
With projects from municipalities coming from all over the state, Knight said, along with shrinking CDBG funds, there is sure to be stiff competition. She suggested that the shelter organizers “look for contributors locally, statewide, and outside Maine,” including corporate sponsors, in order to “leverage” the funding with HUD.
Watermolen explained that the shelter would provide vocational, medical and dental services to the women and children in addition to housing.
Established as a separate entity from the church, Watermolen hopes to establish a $1 million endowment to fund the women’s shelter’s operating budget as well as a $500,000 trust fund for residents’ daily needs. It may “take a miracle of God,” he admits, to raise nearly $2 million, but he is confident the money will be donated.
Contributions may be made to Lifespring Chapel, c/o Women’s Shelter, P.O. Box 150, East Machias 04630.