LEWISTON — The committee that advised city officials on homelessness as they considered new regulations on shelters is dissolving, but is pressing the city to consider a temporary 24-hour shelter for the winter months.

In a letter to city administration and elected officials, committee Co-chairpersons Craig Saddlemire and Amy Smith said now that a new ordinance has been approved, the committee has “concluded the scope of our charter.” However, the committee used a final memo to highlight what it said was important next steps for addressing the issue in Lewiston.

One, the committee said, is pursuing a temporary 24-hour shelter for the coming winter, as many unhoused people remain in tents around the city. The committee had previously recommended that the city work to establish a winter shelter by Oct. 1.

“The city should court potential operators to take on this role and, to that end, should facilitate meetings regarding space and funding sources with relevant community partners, including MaineHousing,” the memo states.

Last fall, an emergency shelter at the Ramada Hotel continued through the new year through Federal Emergency Management Agency funding.

The committee issued its final report in early August and Saddlemire and Smith sat in on City Council deliberations as the final ordinance was debated by officials. The report said that roughly 1,000 people experienced homelessness in Lewiston over the past 12 months, and that the city’s 83 shelter beds are full 88% of the year, on average.


The new ordinance approved last week stipulates where shelters can operate as well as licensing requirements that new shelters must follow. It also caps the total number of shelter beds in the city at 120, not including homeless shelters that “primarily serve homeless families, youth or children.” The committee had recommended against a cap.

The shelter committee’s memo Monday also urged the City Council to “swiftly move through next steps” regarding the Planning Board’s recent recommendation to add an overlay district in the industrial areas surrounding Exit 80. The overlay would make shelters a conditional use in that area, part of the committee’s overall recommendation to broaden the scope of where shelters can be placed.

The council spent considerable time debating where shelters can operate, ultimately opening up some new area while placing a 250-foot buffer from schools and child care facilities.

As the shelter committee ends its work, it is also pressing officials to maintain “ongoing discussions and policymaking regarding homelessness in Lewiston,” recommending that a subcommittee of either the Lewiston Area Public Health Committee or Housing Committee should be formed “to further monitor and advise on the issue.”

Mayor Carl Sheline, who created the committee, said Monday that the committee has “served our community admirably.”

“We were in a dark place with the shelter moratorium debate,” he said. “The committee brought together shelter and housing experts who, in partnership with city staff, led a constructive conversation about a full range of policy solutions regarding homelessness and shelter best practices. Hopefully this conversation will continue and we will continue to work together to create solutions for Lewiston to address these complex challenges.”

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