Portland’s homeless service center project lifts key hurdle
PORTLAND, Maine – Despite a higher-than-expected price tag, Maine’s largest city this week moved closer to its long-standing goal of building a full-scale homelessness center in the Riverside neighborhood.
Months after accepting a proposal from the Developers Collective, a local development firm, the city’s economic and development committee on Tuesday approved construction and land leases for a 51,000-square-foot, 200-square-foot homeless shelter. beds at 654 Riverside Street.
Last month, the Developers Collective gave the city a new project estimate of $ 25 million, nearly $ 5.8 million more than the company submitted in a proposal in March. But that might not be the final cost. City staff said the $ 25 million figure was a “must-see number” for the public-private partnership, with some spending being negotiated. Ultimately, the city will own and maintain the facility.
“This represents the cap, but we hope we can lower them a bit assuming we are able to reduce the costs of the project,” said city finance director Brendan O’Connell.
After passing the committee, city council is expected to vote on the lease for the project on October 18.
Construction of the project has not started. If approved by the board, the developers estimate the shelter will open by December 2022.
“It’s our collective goal to get people to this new facility before next winter,” said Drew Sigfridson, director of Developers Collective.
Last winter, city officials solicited bids for the 200-bed homeless service center as part of a public-private partnership. They pitched the proposed shelter as a shelter that can offer comprehensive services to homeless people, including behavioral health, medical health, soup kitchen, and addiction counseling.
For years, City Manager Jon Jennings and other leaders have made it a goal to shut down the Oxford Street Shelter in Bayside, which operates with limited capacity to promote social distancing during the pandemic, in favor of a full-service shelter on the outskirts of town.
The pandemic has worsened conditions for homeless people and other vulnerable people in Portland.
Portland housed an average of 200 people per night in hotels and shelters during the summer months, spending “over a million dollars a month,” according to Jennings. The city housed more than 700 people per month in shelters and hotels in some places last winter.
Sigfridson called the original $ 19.2 million proposal a “very rough schematic concept.” The inflated cost of materials during the pandemic is $ 1.05 million more than the original total, with an additional $ 1.7 million to meet design demands from the planning board, fire departments and police and community members, according to Sigfridson. An additional $ 750,000 is earmarked for compliance with energy efficiency, insulation and thermal protection standards linked to the Green New Deal ordinance adopted by the city in 2020.
The company will continue to “work on value engineering strategies and other cost reduction measures to reduce the total cost” of the $ 25 million cap, said Sigfridson. An additional $ 5 million for the project would come from the American Rescue Plan Act, according to Jennings.
Plans for the Riverside Refuge could be complicated by the passage of a citizens’ initiative in the November poll that would amend Portland’s Land Use Ordinance to require all new shelters to operate around the clock while limiting the size of most new 50 bed shelters.
But counselor April Fournier said existing plans to build a full-service shelter would help vulnerable people now by helping reduce the number of hours social workers and case managers use to locate people and put them in. contact with health services, or help them register for benefits. like MaineCare, SNAP, WIC and General Assistance.
“It takes hours and hours to get it all coordinated,” Fournier said. In a centralized location, “instead of coming and going and missing appointments and rescheduling appointments, we are able to meet people where they are”.
Fournier, who works as a case manager specializing in early childhood for Maine Behavioral Healthcare, wanted the city to have sufficient resources and funds to “give each person individualized attention” and see the shelter as a solution to care. harm reduction for an urgent situation.
“I hear people they want smaller [shelter] models and maybe one day we can get there, ”Fournier said,“ but I think we have an absolute need, if not crisis, in the city to have people housed, supported and able to establish these connections. “