Lewiston’s temporary homeless shelter at a local hotel has been at capacity since it opened last month.
Hotel shelters have been an alternative many cities have turned to for extra support for people experiencing homeless during the pandemic. It comes as Portland, Maine’s largest city, has seen a record surge in homelessness amid the economic fallout from the pandemic.
The 28-bed shelter at the Ramada Hotel operated by nonprofit Community Concepts was approved by the City Council last month just days before it opened to the public on Nov. 15. It reached its capacity within two days of opening.
The shelter funded by MaineHousing is being operated by the Lewiston-based nonprofit, Community Concepts. It is housed in a separate wing of the Ramada in order to allow for its own entrance. People staying at the shelter have been required to present a negative COVID-19 test before they can get a room, according to the Lewiston Sun Journal.
Shawn Yardley, CEO of Community Concepts, told the Sun Journal on Monday that the shelter project this winter was pursued quickly because there were “not a lot of options, and it’s cold outside.”
Compared to the city’s last effort to house people at the Lewiston Armory this summer which took a few weeks to be coordinated, a wider range of services was made available to shelter guests at the Ramada almost immediately.
While the Lewiston Armory had 60 beds, the Ramada only has 28. When it closed, 60 percent of the 137 individuals who stayed at the Armory ended up back on the streets.
City officials said they recognized the need is much bigger than the shelter can currently accommodate.
Lewiston isn’t the only Maine city turning to hotels as temporary homeless shelters. Bangor also is housing people experiencing homelessness at The Ramada Inn at Odlin and will continue to do so until the end of the year.