Sylvia Thompson is struggling to find long-term housing for her family of four. Rose Lincoln

BETHEL — Sylvia Thompson said, “I want to be able to stay here.”

The 36 year-old, West Bethel resident met her partner, Josh Gaudreau at Telstar when she was 12. Their children are 15  and eight.

They live in a one and a half bedroom apartment, she described as a “shoebox” yet in the same breath, feels grateful to have. Ideally Thompson and Gaudreau would like to move their family to a larger place, but she said, “there is no where to rent long-term. Every single real estate place in this town is short-term.”

They regularly search for rentals from Albany to Andover on Craig’s List and Facebook’s Team Bethel, and have posted what they are hoping to find. Thompson consistently calls five different local realtors, too. “I get the same answer, ‘we don’t do long term rentals,'” she said.

“It definitely has gotten harder to rent. There were options five years ago. There are no options now,” she said.

In the meantime, their daughter’s bedroom is the tiny mudroom as you enter through the front door of their apartment. “We made it her bedroom for her to have more privacy,” said Thompson. And their eight year old shares a bedroom with his parents.


They live on the first floor of the house, with another apartment above them. Their rent just increased to $1,100. per month from $800.  The cost includes includes electricity and heat.

The rental needs much work, and has changed hands a few times since the family began living there in 2016. The current owner has tried to sell it, too, disrupting the family each time.

Of the new owner, Thompson said, “he doesn’t want to be a landlord but he’s been gracious enough to work with us so we don’t have to leave town … If we leave, our kids have to change schools. I lose my job and my husband loses his.”

Their daughter has specialized instruction at Telstar that Thompson appreciates. “they have everything she needs there.” Their son has friends at Crescent Park. Of both children, she says, “I want them to know that we have stability and they don’t have to worry.”

Thompson has worked for The Inn at the Rostay for the past 5 years and Gaudreau works for contractor and property manager, Ron Savage. Thompson works six days a week; Gaudreau works five days a week and sometimes on the weekend. They have just one vehicle, but Thompson appreciates that she could walk home from work if necessary.

They have considered renting seasonally, doing six month spans but, ” it’s outrageously expensive, ” said Thompson and referring to their children she said, “it wouldn’t be fair to them to uproot their lives [each season].”


In the meantime, they are hoping to someday buy an acre of land to put a trailer on and eventually build their own home. First they need to build credit, said Thompson, something she is working on.

“You’re not really buying a home. You’re buying the area. I get the town wants to make the money [from] tourists, because this is a tourist town. I have nothing against that. I get that. My job thrives on people coming to vacation.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if any one of these dozens and dozens of houses would be willing to do a long-term contract? To someone that  is willing to take care of their own repairs and take care of their own heating and electricity. Between my job and his, we are able to do that.

“If we could just get one realty company to see the whole picture, that this is a nice local family that needs help, needs a place to stay. That’s all we’re asking for.”

Asked her opinion on the proposed short-term rental ordinance by Bethel’s ordinance review committee, Thompson hesitates, then says yes, she feels there should be some kind of cap on STR’s, because, “what about someone who wants to move here and start their life in this beautiful area. They are not going to be able to.

“It’s not just me there are are others out there.


“I hope somebody reading this story understands what a struggle it is to live in this area … I just wish somebody would give us a chance.” said Thompson.

Justice Pittman looks every single day, multiple times a day for a long-term rental. Rose Lincoln

Justice Pittman

“[I feel] hopeless and depressed. Trying to find housing is constantly on my mind. When I go to sleep at night when I wake up in the morning … Trying to find someplace safe and habitable, it’s depressing. It’s hard every single day. I look multiple times a day. I’ve posted on Facebook. I’ve texted everybody I know. There are people that have been looking for me. I’ve reached out to a lot of people,” said Justice Pittman.

She would like to live near her Newry job but cannot find a long-term rental in this area.

Pittman has worked at Sunday River Ski Resort since she was 16. For the past three years she has been the administrator in the realty office and recently became a licensed realtor. She talks with her Sunday River co-workers and others about housing. “It’s a struggle for everyone,” she said, “unless you purchased your home a long time ago, there is nowhere to live.”

For nearly her whole life she had lived with her parents in her bedroom in West Paris. For three years she lived there with her daughter, now a four-year old.


She moved out of her parent’s house and for the last year, has been paying $1,125 per month for a very small three-bedroom apartment. It’s on the third floor in a five unit apartment building. “There’s lots of weird sketchy stuff that happens. It’s not a great street in Norway. There are things wrong with the apartment and they just stay that way. Things are falling apart. There’s mold.

“The place doesn’t feel safe. I literally would take a studio, preferably not… It’s so hard and so frustrating,” said Pittman.

If she lived in Bethel or somewhere nearer to work she wouldn’t have to rush to before-school child care or after-school child care.

“It’s kind of unfair to build this economy up here, where there’s a better school district and less crime. But, I’ve got to go take my kid out to (Rumford or Mexico) where I don’t feel safe.

“Something absolutely needs to be done. Everyday I watch things get built. You can [later] go look on Airbnb and there it is. There’s no balance, that’s the issue. Folks that buy properties then turn them into Airbnb’s aren’t paying the same as if you were to own a business even though it is a business. It is so frustrating to watch that happen when there is a housing crisis.”

Recently she saw a long-term rental listing in Hanover. The rent is $1,100 without utilities. This will stretch her budget, but she is hopeful she will get it.

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