AUBURN — The city of Auburn could be among 14 emergency warming shelter proposals to receive state funding this week, but must confirm a location by Friday.

The proposals from across the state are seeking a portion of $21 million made available through LD 3, the $473 million emergency energy relief bill passed last month, to address the homelessness crisis.

Auburn’s proposal is among three still being negotiated with the state ahead of a planned announcement of the shelters this Friday, according to a MaineHousing spokesman.

City officials would not confirm the details Wednesday, with City Manager Phil Crowell saying Auburn does not have a “definitive plan” and is still waiting to hear from MaineHousing regarding its application.

“We are constantly looking for the best solutions to meet the needs of our unhoused community,” Crowell said. “As we discuss and collaborate with partners, options are being considered.”

Allison Upham and her fiance, Michael Braiser, who have been living in a tent, select clothing Feb. 1 at the Pleasant Street Drop-in Center at the First Universalist Church, 169 Pleasant St. in Auburn. “We bury ourselves under a mountain of blankets,” Braiser said. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

According to sources at the First Universalist Church of Auburn on Pleasant Street, which has been operating a drop-in center with resources for the homeless, the city has approached the church about hosting a state-funded shelter. With only two days to make a decision, however, the church is scrambling to conduct meaningful discussions among its congregation in such a short time frame.


When the city initially released details on its application for funding last month, the city property at 121 Mill St. was proposed as the location. It is unclear why that location is no longer under consideration.

The state funding is meant for short-term overnight facilities, with the shelters only operating through April. While Auburn’s zoning generally does not allow for homeless shelters, warming centers — where people can spend the night but without a bed or cot — are allowed.

The city hosted a 48-hour warming center at the Auburn Housing Authority’s Family Development Center last weekend, where some people hunkered down on inflated mattresses.

The First Universalist Church of Auburn — and its drop-in center for homeless people — has often been at the center of discussions on homeless policy in the city, especially after an encampment there was shut down by the city last year.

MaineHousing spokesman Scott Thistle said Wednesday the state received 17 applications, and had identified 14 for funding. Of those, two proposals in Portland, as well as Auburn’s project, are still being worked out.

The announcement of the shelters this week comes just days after the state saw historically low temperatures, and as many communities continue to grapple with a homelessness crisis.

Following the frigid weather of last weekend, rumors have been circulating this week on social media that several unattended deaths occurred among the unhoused, particularly in Auburn.

Auburn Police Chief Jason Moen said Wednesday the department did not respond to any deaths over the weekend.

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