AUBURN — Officials say they are in early talks on a proposal that would place 24 modular shelters, known as Pallet boxes, somewhere in the Twin Cities this winter as a temporary measure to address homelessness.

During a City Council meeting Monday, Mayor Jason Levesque said the city has discussed the proposal with officials and staff in Lewiston, as well as Androscoggin County government, calling it “a regional issue that needs regional solutions.”

The modular units would provide shelter for up to 48 people, with two shared bathroom units.

The proposal, slated to cost $1.1 million, comes as both cities seek solutions to an increase in the unhoused population as cold weather sets in. After Auburn recently took enforcement action to shut down an encampment at a local church, homeless advocates questioned city policies that do not allow for emergency overnight shelters.

As of last week, administration in both cities said they had not yet discussed collaborating on potential shelter solutions.

However, on Monday, Levesque said he wanted the public to know “officials are working hard to try to solve this.”


“We are experiencing a housing crisis, which is being felt acutely here in Auburn, Lewiston and Androscoggin County,” he said, adding that emergency shelter for 48 people would increase the county’s shelter bed capacity significantly.

Lewiston has 88 shelter beds among four private shelters, but a recent ordinance change opened the possibility of more beds being developed there. Auburn’s zoning does not allow overnight homeless shelters, except for survivors of domestic abuse and human trafficking.

The maker of the modular units, Pallet, is based in Washington state. The nearest “village” is in Boston, where 18 units were opened last year. Levesque said if the proposal ultimately moves forward, it could be a “regional model for other municipalities.”

Levesque said the goal is to have the units in operation by Jan. 1, 2023, but said the potential location and funding breakdown are still to be determined.

Asked late Monday, Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline said he’s looking forward to more discussions on solutions.

“It’s getting cold,” he said. “As the thermometer starts dropping, there is no question that we need to move quickly to stand up a temporary winter shelter for our region’s unhoused,” he said. “I look forward to discussing proposals with municipal partners and the county in an effort to take substantive action soon.”

The cost of the project includes a full-time and part-time staff member, and overnight security.

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