Calvary United Methodist Church on Sabattus Street in Lewiston opens its doors to those needing a place to stay warm daytime on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. The church is planning to expand to an overnight warming shelter that would be open from midnight to 8 a.m. seven days a week for up to 50 people. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Organizations in Lewiston and Auburn are looking to secure funding to operate overnight warming centers, potentially providing two options for homeless individuals to spend winter nights indoors.

In Lewiston, officials from Community Concepts and the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine received funding Wednesday evening from Androscoggin County Commission toward a program at Calvary United Methodist Church on Sabattus Street. The church offers a soup kitchen and has run a warming center during daytime hours on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays.

Commissioners approved the total budget request of $297,680 for the warming center by a 5-0 vote, with commissioners Brian Ames of Lewiston and Garrett Mason of Lisbon absent.

The budget includes paying for administrative support, a building coordinator and three monitors seven days per week for 13 weeks.

Bill Reed, a church board trustee, said that with the funding from the county, they are hoping to be up and running later this week, as winter storms are forecast to arrive. The shelter would be open from midnight to 8 a.m., seven days a week, and accommodate more than 50 people.

The shelter will provide a place during the coldest hours of the night, Community Concepts CEO Jim Martin said. No facility in Lewiston offers an overnight center.


Martin stressed that this is not a shelter, but a warming center, adding that this is a temporary bridge and not a long-term solution.

“We are being very intentional in the use of our language,” Martin said. “We are staying away from the word shelter because we do not intend to offer beds. This is meant to be a warming center for the next 13 weeks.”

The program will provide a food preparation area, bathroom and shower facilities and laundry services.

Asked by Commissioner Terri Kelley of Mechanic Falls how much the city planned to contribute to the project, Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline said the city would not be contributing any money right now.

“The city of Lewiston cares about our unhoused population,” Sheline said. “This represented the quickest way to get funding. This proposal is ready to go.”

County Commission Chairwoman Sally Christner of Turner said the county has received various proposals over the past couple of months, but this proposal “is really built for success.”


In Auburn, city officials announced Tuesday that the city is applying for funding available through Maine Housing for overnight warming shelters. The $21 million statewide comes through L.D. 3, the $473 million emergency energy relief bill passed this month.

During a City Council meeting Tuesday, Auburn City Manager Phil Crowell said if the application is successful, a warming center would be opened on city property at 121 Mill St., providing daytime shelter for 65 individuals and overnight shelter for 30. Crowell said the state funding is meant for short-term overnight facilities, with the shelter only open through April.

Mayor Jason Levesque said he planned to call a special meeting if and when the city’s application is approved. He said the location was already vetted in prior weeks, and believes the state will work quickly on applications “given where we are in the season.”

Both proposals in the Twin Cities come as municipalities across the state have struggled to find ways to respond to the homeless crisis.

An earlier effort between both cities and Androscoggin County government to create a shelter village of modular units was scrapped after the parties could not agree on a funding breakdown. The county had allocated $520,000 toward the proposal. Auburn has also received public pressure to update its zoning ordinances, which don’t allow overnight emergency shelters, while Lewiston has strengthened its rules against overnight camping.

The former Great Falls Marketing building on Mill Street in Auburn is being considered for a warming shelter. The area behind the building is where the homeless have been known to build temporary shelters. Shopping carts are a convenient way for the homeless to move their possessions. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Reed said so far this winter, the city councils in both Lewiston and Auburn had “decided it’s not their problem,” but said he’s “amazed” that officials are now stepping up.


The funding request for the Calvary United Methodist Church shelter is nearly $300,000, which would be administered by Community Concepts. Martin said the organization would be providing oversight for the shelter — much like it did for previous emergency shelters at the Lewiston Armory and Ramada Hotel — but said it would be supporting the work of the church and the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine, which will provide some staff and services.

The church in years past has opened as a warming center on Sundays when other local options to stay warm are closed.

Martin said the work to collaborate on an overnight shelter started as a result of conversations led by Mayor Carl Sheline, who he said “brought stakeholders together” in December.

Sheline said Wednesday the organizations involved “are longstanding committed community organizations and I am grateful for their willingness to come together to provide assistance to our unhoused population this winter. Lewiston is really fortunate to have local community leaders who have a passion for their mission and just want to help.”

Both cities’ programs intend to provide “wraparound services” alongside other organizations, working to secure permanent housing for shelter guests. Auburn said it would be seeking $250,000 from the state funding.

Greg Payne, Gov. Janet Mills’ senior housing policy adviser, told the Portland Press Herald this week the state funding will help provide emergency shelter to people at risk of becoming unhoused as the federal Emergency Rental Assistance program comes to an end, and will also support other more permanent solutions across Maine.

According to Glen Holmes, director of business and community development, Auburn will coordinate its project using existing staff in his department.

“We will temporarily move staff to the project site and work with other service providers to have staffing in place,” he said, adding that they will also have on-site security “24-7.”

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