FARMINGTON — For almost a year, a local man slept in his car before he found shelter at Living Waters Assembly of God Church. With some help re-establishing his life, he and his daughter are ready to leave for their own place.
Providing a space for homeless families to stay while they rebuild their lives is the goal of a large group of pastors and community members who have met weekly at the church for over a month, the Rev. Steve Bracy said Friday.
The group plans to open a three-room, temporary homeless shelter called Western Maine Homeless Outreach on Oct. 1, he said.
“Living Waters will host the shelter, but it’s a community shelter,” Bracy said.
His congregation is expected to vote on the project Sunday. The church’s elder board supports it and everyone, so far, is jumping on board, he said.
One room in the church is already set up like a motel room. That room and one other are already providing shelter, something the church has done for about two years since it moved from Strong to Wilton Road in Farmington.
Years ago, there was an effort to start a shelter for the local homeless teen population, but it never developed.
“There’s a need in the community,” Bracy said. “We need to step up. The timing is right.”
For years, churches have been on the receiving end of requests for help, the Rev. Susan Crane of Henderson Memorial Baptist Church recently told her congregation. Providing motel rooms for a night or two doesn’t fix anything, and the discounted rates are no longer available.
While the state doesn’t have homelessness data from Franklin County because there is no shelter to count numbers, the proposed shelter, even on a temporary basis, could provide the numbers and lead to a permanent shelter, she said.
More state and federal money may be available to help if the true picture of homelessness in Franklin County can be shown. They need to see the numbers, Bracy said.
“The idea is to host a temporary shelter, maybe two years, maybe five, till something gets going,” Bracy said.
Betty Palmer of Phillips, executive director of the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter in Waterville, is working with the group.
“We’re following their model,” he said.
The group, consisting of pastors from several area churches, members of the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area, Western Maine Community Action, the Franklin County Landlords Association, a real estate agent and others, meet every Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the church. People interested in helping are welcome to attend, he said.
The shelter will provide more than lodging. Outreach with classes and case managers to help people get their lives back on track are being planned. Volunteers will man the shelter for now, he said.
The church has a large basement with kitchen facilities, a dining area and several smaller rooms, including three on a separate wing.
Some work will need to be done, including the addition of a shower to the women’s bathroom and the installation of fire doors and smoke alarms. The group has already sought local code enforcement review of what needs to be done. The rooms the church is giving up downstairs will be rebuilt upstairs, he said.
Volunteer contractors, electricians, plumbers and carpenters are ready to help. The group plans to ask local businesses to partner with them, and they will hold fundraisers to provide any needed materials.
A recent grant from the United Way is providing $3,668 to buy bunk beds — up to 20 beds for families or a parent and their children. Single people can easily go to the Waterville facility, he said.
The group plans to hold two community meetings in September to discuss the project.
For more information or to help, contact Bracy at 778-6190 or Crane at 778-2163.