LEWISTON — Amy Smith spent 32 years as a software engineer but changed course in 2014 after her daughter struggled to find affordable housing in Portland. So, she bought a run-down triple decker to renovate and rent out, with absolutely no experience.

When it was all said and done, she and her daughter, Allie, made a lot of mistakes and went way over budget, but Smith said they learned a lot.

From that experience, Smith said she developed what has become her passion — to rehabilitate distressed triple-deckers into affordable housing that leads to a rising number of occupant-owners. Her work has connected her with a long list of community-based organizations and the underserved community of “Tree Streets” in Lewiston, home to the many immigrants and lifelong residents who are all part of one of the most disadvantaged communities in the state of Maine. The densely-populated, 30-block residential section of the city has become her love, her focus and the base for her many community endeavors.

Healthy Homeworks is the non-profit Smith founded in 2016. Among the many programs connected with the organization is Build-a-Bed, where they teach volunteers to make beds, which they then sell. The original purpose was to get tenants in one of her buildings off the floor, where they had been sleeping among bed bugs and lead paint.

The larger goal, as with many of the programs Smith has started, is to empower the residents to better themselves, learn how to be financially responsible and work within the community to help each other. She is compassionate, driven and humble and has received the accolades of many in the community for her work.

Smith has partnered with other organizations, the city and community stakeholders to obtain grants for everything from lead hazard reduction to the revitalization of the Tree Street community and a program called Rent 2 Owner to open up the opportunities for residents to help secure a path to ownership.


That includes partnering with local banks and other financial organizations to design alternative methods of funding for ownership, through fee-based financing, rather than the traditional interest-based loans. Muslims, for example, are forbidden by Sharia law from charging interest or paying interest, unlike is traditional in the West.

The biggest challenge facing her organization is the rising cost of property as part of the reality of today’s tight housing market. Smith said in 2016 the cost of a triple decker was around $92,000, a figure that has risen to $250,000 today, making it harder for renters to become owners.

If you would like more information on Healthy Homeworks or would like to get involved with the any of the programs, Smith said there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer. You can find them on Facebook and LinkedIn or call them at 207-321-8883.

The Great Falls Forum is a monthly, brown-bag speaker series featuring statewide and regional leaders in public policy, business, academia and the arts. Admission is free to all Forum events. The Forum is a co-sponsorship of the Sun Journal, Bates College, and LPL. Recordings of the virtual Great Falls Forum programs will be archived on the Library’s YouTube channel following the live event.

For more information, please contact the Lewiston Public Library at 207-513-3135 or LPLReference@lewistonmaine.gov.

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