WATERVILLE, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage was one of many who were able to mark the groundbreaking of the new Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter on Monday morning.
LePage, who was homeless himself as a child, expressed appreciation for those who have supported the shelter’s expansion. He was once a board member of the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter.
The groundbreaking took place inside Pleasant Street Methodist Church instead of the location of the building site on Colby Circle. A group of about 200 contributors attended.
LePage said the new building will be key in helping homeless people get back on their feet.
“I’ll tell you, the only way to eradicate [homelessness] is you got to understand it and you need to find ways to get them jobs, get them educated, getting them the skills and getting them the help,” said LePage. “Because a lot of people who find themselves homeless are homeless because they probably have some medical issues. Sometimes it’s mental issues. Once they’re treated, they’re stabilized, believe me … a lot of them are working, very proud and great contributors. As a former employer of people who suffered severe mental illness, they raise the bar for everyone else who comes to work.”
Doug Cutchin, chairman of the Rebuilding Lives Campaign, which raised funds for the construction project, said LePage, a former Waterville mayor, helped inspire the shelter to expand its vision years ago.
“[In] his concept, and I think it was from his childhood, the job of a shelter should be to help people to where they’re no longer homeless,” said Cutchin. “He was the one who started this concept. Let’s get people a plan and let’s get going.”
The new two-story building will allow the organization to serve the homeless in one spot instead of being scattered in two places because of lack of space. The shelter now has a building on Ticonic Street and another overflow site.
“We have moms and dads who are not staying in the same house as their children [now],” said Betty Palmer, executive director of the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter. “In the new shelter, that won’t happen. Families will be able to be together in the same building.”
Cutchin said the new building will help the organization better reach its mission.
“Rebuilding lives one person and one family at a time. That is our mission,” said Cutchin. “We started a plan for each guest when they come in. The No. 1 is [to] get housing, medical [care] and a job. In other words, now we wanted to not only help the homeless, but we wanted to make the homeless not homeless. To give them that capability. In many cases, we have done that.”
Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter also helps prevent homelessness, said Palmer.
“Last week we helped a woman who needed just five more hours of work a week [to pay her rent]. She was afraid to ask her employer. We sat down with her and her employer. Between her schedule and another person gave up some of their hours, she got the hours she needed to stay in her apartment. She can afford to pay her rent,” said Palmer.
Donations from less than a dollar to $600,000 have been contributed and have come from as far away as North Carolina. The goal was to raise $2.75 million. Cutchin said the shelter was able to exceed that amount.
“It was $600,000 that kicked this thing off. We would not be here without that gift,” said Cutchin, who said the donor wanted to remain anonymous.
Sheridan Corp., which has offices in Fairfield and Portland, will construct the building. Sheridan representative Rick Mackenzie said the company plans to break ground in a couple of weeks with anticipation of completion by September.