Apartment plan to help homeless

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NORWAY – It’s just four apartments, a tiny fix to help with the dearth of housing for the homeless in this county, but it will at least provide shelter for a few families.

Rumford Group Homes, a social services agency, is hoping to build a small apartment building on Hayden Avenue for young, single mothers with children. An agency representative presented the project plans to the Planning Board last week.

Town Planner Dennis Gray said there’s a good chance the project will be approved, following a public hearing, because there’s nothing in the local ordinance that would preclude this type of independent housing for low-income families in the downtown area.

The Rumford Group Homes proposal showed a need for that kind housing, and that’s why they got funding from the Maine State Housing Authority, Gray said recently.

The director of Rumford Group Homes wrote in an e-mail that his organization’s policy is to not speak to the news media until a project has been approved.

The Maine State Housing Authority has provided the project, called the Pine Woods Supportive Housing, with about $547,000 in federal and state funding, Spokesman Dan Simpson said. Additional funding was provided from the Maine Statewide Homeless Council, he added.

The building will be constructed on a vacant 3.25-acre lot and will have one handicap-accessible unit as well as an office for a social worker, Town Clerk Shirley Boyce said.

The four apartments will be a bit of a help, but there’s still a need for nearly 800 more units for homeless people in Oxford County.

Simpson said there are about 1,545 low-income renters in Oxford County and 752 subsidized apartments. In 2004, 261 individuals or families did not have homes in this area.

“There is a need statewide for housing that serves homeless people,” he said.

According to a Community Concepts spokeswoman, 500 people on average stay at shelters every night in Maine. Community Concepts runs two shelters in Paris and Rumford, with nine beds each.

“We’re turning people away,” Mary Ellen Therriault of Community Concepts said Thursday. “Every other week or so we have to turn someone, some family, away,” and refer them to other shelters.

The Pine Woods Supportive Housing will take referrals from Community Concepts, Therriault said, and the families will move from the shelter to the transitional units. They’ll receive support to deal with the problems that led them to homelessness and eventually move on to more permanent housing, Therriault said.

“There is such a lack of affordable housing here, even with a subsidized voucher,” Therriault said. “There just isn’t enough.”


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