LEWISTON — As elected officials from the state and local levels gathered Tuesday to look ahead to next year, two issues rose to the top of a long list.

Members of the City Council and Lewiston’s legislative delegation largely agreed that they need to find more solutions to confront the state’s dual crises of homelessness and substance use, and local officials pressed the newly elected delegation for more help.

Sitting across from the City Council on Tuesday were state Reps. Mana Abdi, Kristen Cloutier, Margaret Craven and Michel Lajoie, and state Sen. Peggy Rotundo.

On the docket were several high-profile issues, but Lewiston’s unhoused population — and the prospect of more state assistance — was front and center.

Cloutier, the former Lewiston councilor and mayor, said state officials have been following recent discussions on a proposed shelter village, a collaboration between the Twin Cities and Androscoggin County government that has recently stalled.

Cloutier told the council Tuesday that the governor’s office is willing to “supply us with financial resources” toward the project if the local governments can come together on a site for the village. The original proposal was for the placement of 24 modular units, which could house up to 48 people.


While the prospect of state funding is a new development, others in the delegation said there are still serious concerns with the “village” model.

Craven said she’s heard concerns over the cost of the portable units, as well as safety and sanitation.

“Other states have tried this model and been really sorry that this was the model they set up,” she said, urging the cities to consider different models.

City Administrator Heather Hunter said that while who would provide security hadn’t been decided, the proposed budget included security, as well as counselors for several services. To date, the parties have not been able to agree on how to fund the estimated $1.5 million price tag.

While state officials pointed to the recently created statewide hub model, which places nine coordinators across the state to better manage responses to homelessness, some councilors said there simply aren’t enough resources available — especially for substance treatment.

Councilor Rick LaChapelle, who lost to Rotundo in a bid for the District 21 Senate seat, said he sees the devastating effects of the opioid crisis firsthand. LaChapelle estimated that one person per month is dying of an overdose in the boarding houses he owns.


“I’m passionate because I live it, I see it,” he said. “This addiction and mental health issue, is hands down the number one issue.”

LaChapelle, adding that he’s seen how hard it is to find treatment options for people, urged state officials to pursue more solutions.

“We have to address it a little deeper than ‘we have a coordinator who will tell you where to go.’ There’s nowhere to go,” he said.

Councilor Stephanie Gelinas, co-chairperson of the city’s ad hoc substance use committee, said it will take a comprehensive approach, which includes more local treatment options.

“People in Lewiston are going everywhere else to get help, because there are no facilities to help them here,” she said.

Gelinas told the state delegation that the committee is in the position to act on proposals “if the funding was there.”


She added that to make the best use of opioid lawsuit settlement funds that have begun to be dispersed, communities should “come together and regionalize our efforts and do something bigger.”

Also requested by councilors Tuesday was potential funding for “encampment cleanup.”

LaChapelle said the city has incurred heavy cleanup costs due to the high number of unhoused people camping in wooded areas, which he said was largely out of sight until late fall.

Councilor Larry Pease said once the city moves along an encampment, “they find another place.”

“We’ve got to find someplace for these people to go, because we’re just moving them,” he said.

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