Changes, vandalism delay Lewiston veterans’ shelter

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LEWISTON — A housing program for veterans should be ready this fall, despite some changes and a few setbacks.

Vincent Perrone, president of Veterans Inc., of Worcester, Mass., said his company’s renovation of the former St. Joseph’s School at 393 Main St. should be ready for occupants Nov. 1.

“Things are going really well, and we’ve gotten a lot of local support from local contractors,” Perrone said. “That’s going to make the apartments even better than we had hoped.”

Veterans Inc. is a New England-based group that seeks to end homelessness among veterans. It operates seven other veterans’ housing developments in Massachusetts and Vermont. Those range from an 85-bed men and women’s intake shelter in Worcester to a 10-bed transitional complex in Bradford, Vt.

The Lewiston shelter will be for men only.

The company bought the former school last summer and announced plans to renovate it and turn it into transitional housing for homeless veterans.

The original plan would have had 20 beds spread among 11 dwelling units, even though the company would have preferred to offer private rooms exclusively.

But Perrone said the updated project now calls for all private, efficiency apartments.

“We were able to raise a little more money,” he said. “It contributed to the delay because we converted those 11 units to 20 efficiency apartments. They’ll all have their own bathrooms, their own kitchens, their own apartments. They will be totally self-sufficient.”

Perrone said the project was delayed by several instances of vandalism.

“Some teens were breaking in from time to time, breaking windows and damaging renovations,” he said. “We had to go back and do them again and that negatively affected our budget and our time schedule.”

This would be the company’s first property in Maine, although Perrone said he has staff in Lewiston and Portland overseeing employment and training programs for Maine veterans. Veterans Inc. also has Maine programs to provide financial support for families of veterans and for senior citizen veterans.

St. Joseph’s School was one of three Lewiston parochial schools closed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland in 2006. The school opened in 1881 and had 180 students from kindergarten through grade eight.

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