Planning Board to meet regarding proposed family shelter

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NORWAY — The Planning Board will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, at the Town Office to hear comments on a plan by Community Concepts to open a homeless shelter on Winter Street.

The shelter proposed for 28 Winter St. would be a family shelter, “serving people from our own community,” said Laurie Winsor of Community Concepts. The agency has offered a variety of housing, economic development and social services for the communities of Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford Counties since 1965.

Winsor told the Planning Board last week that the house, which is being leased to them by Tony Morra of Bisco Properties of Norway, would house a maximum of two families at a time.

Community Concepts operates two homeless shelters: one in Paris that has been operating for 10 years and one in Rumford, which has been operating for 20 years. The houses are operated with support from the Maine State Housing Authority.

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Each of their homeless shelters is set up as a two-unit dwelling. Families have their own bedrooms, and the kitchen, living room and bathroom are shared spaces.

Winsor said the families they will serve are usually financially strapped and in need of housing assistance. There is no specific length of stay for families, but the typical time is seven to nine months before they receive Section 8 housing assistance and find a rental unit.

The program allows families access to social workers and other services while they are at the shelter.

The organization will screen families before they are allowed to occupy the house, and no one will be able to just knock on the door and ask for shelter.

Winsor said there have never been problems with drugs, alcohol or other criminal activity in their shelters. Only one shelter tenant has ever been evicted, due to a theft. That incident happened in 2003.

An inspection of the Winter Street site by the state was conducted Thursday. A list of items that need to be addressed was identified.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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