LEWISTON — Officials will consider placing a moratorium on new homeless shelters next week in response to an effort by local residents to open a 24-hour, low-barrier shelter and resource center.

According to the City Council agenda for Tuesday, which was posted Friday, the council will vote on a measure that would ask city staff to draft a moratorium “for the council to consider.”

“This moratorium would allow the council time to make an informed decision to consider licensing and locations of homeless shelters within the city,” the agenda states.

The move comes after a proposal for a 24-bed shelter and resource center received a lukewarm response from city councilors last month, which also led to controversy days later over the group’s negotiations on a vacant Sabattus Street building.

Members of the team, who have worked closely on the issue of homelessness in various capacities, said someone with access to confidential information interfered with negotiations on the property, causing the building’s owner to up the asking price.

The resource center team, which detailed its proposal in February, hoped to raise $600,000 from local and state sources toward renovating the building into a 24-hour shelter and resource center that could provide “wrap-around” services aimed at transitioning people out of homelessness. The city does not have a 24-hour, low-barrier shelter.


The city has four shelters but none provide 24-hour service, and they can turn people away for several reasons, including arriving late, substance use, previous stay bans, lack of identification and religious reasons.

Team members told the City Council that the effort would not seek local taxpayer dollars, or in other words, funding directly from the city’s municipal budget. The group is hoping to secure $325,000 in federal HOME funds from Lewiston, as well as $125,000 from Auburn, and $150,000 from MaineHousing.

In response to the news Friday, Megan Parks, a Lewiston School Committee member and resource team member, said the group is “already collaborating with our community partners and networks on this.” She said she expects there will be a large crowd at Tuesday’s meeting and “very likely some protests.”

Mayor Carl Sheline spoke against considering a moratorium on Friday, stating “it’s really upsetting that following the council workshop on a proposed homeless shelter, several of the councilors concluded that the best way forward was a moratorium on shelters. This is absolutely the wrong approach. Homelessness is not a crime and this is not who we are as a city.”

During the initial presentation, at least half the council appeared skeptical of the shelter plan and financing, leading to some heated exchanges between councilors and the resource center team.

Councilor Lee Clement proposed placing some kind of licensing controls on the shelter, and asked  Sheline to take an informal poll of support from councilors. However, Sheline declined.


Parks said Clement’s proposal would likely eliminate the resource center’s goal of providing a low-barrier shelter.

Clement and others have said they are concerned that offering a 24-hour shelter will exacerbate the issue of homelessness in Lewiston, potentially luring in people outside the city looking for services. However, the resource center team has argued the problem exists here already. Parks said she’s seen people sleeping in the doorways of the proposed Sabattus Street location on multiple occasions.

The issue, she said, is here now.

The council will take up the issue at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

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