Neighbors object to Norway homeless housing project

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NORWAY – Some neighbors on Hayden Avenue are opposed to the idea of living close to a proposed housing complex for homeless single mothers, and last week, a number of them voiced their objections at a Planning Board hearing.

Rumford Group Homes recently submitted plans for a four-apartment complex on the short, dead-end road off Pleasant Street that would provide transitional apartments to young mothers with children.

The director of the social service agency has said the organization’s policy is to not comment until the project is approved.

The neighbors say they are concerned about increased traffic and the possible devaluation of their properties.

“These people obviously become homeless for some problem in their lives,” Bernhard Loef said recently. His house is next door to the lot the organization wants to develop. “Some have dealt with drugs and alcohol. I have been in law enforcement for nine years. If people want drugs or alcohol they will have access to it. And these children, obviously these children have fathers, and they will still come around and visit. We don’t need extra traffic, extra problems.”

Dennis Gray, Planning Board chairman, said the board will formally hear the neighbors’ complaints at a public hearing, which will be scheduled in the next few weeks.

“We’re interested in hearing what the neighbors have to say,” Gray said. “You always listen to what people have to say. But if there is generalized concern, there is nothing in the ordinance that uses generalized concern to turn down a project.”

Gray added, too, that the town does not have zoning, which might have defined this area exclusively for single-family homes and thus precluded this situation.

There is a great need for subsidized housing in Oxford County that would help low-income renters, according to the Maine State Housing Authority. About 1,545 low-income renters reside in Oxford County, and yet there are only 752 subsidized apartments. In 2004, 261 individuals or families did not have homes here.

Community Concepts runs two homeless shelters in Rumford and Paris but frequently does not have the room to accommodate the numbers seeking beds, a spokeswoman has said.

The Hayden Avenue project, called Pine Woods Supportive Housing, would have four apartments, plus an office for a social worker, and would provide support for the young women to deal with the problems that led them to homelessness.

This is the second time Rumford Group Homes has approached the Planning Board with this proposal at this site. But the last project, a few years ago, never progressed past the first meeting with the Planning Board, Town Clerk Shirley Boyce said.

Loef thinks the housing complex should be built somewhere else.

“The main thing is I don’t see any rhyme or reason why they would build one here,” he said. “I don’t think there is an advantage for them living in this neighborhood, there are no schools or buses or anything close by.”


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