LEWISTON — Lewiston officials will hold a hearing on a proposed Park Street shelter on Tuesday, but there is no funding in place to support it.

If the City Council approves a license for the Lewiston Housing Authority’s proposed shelter at 104 Park St., it will be too late for the project to receive a $3.7 million grant from MaineHousing.

The discussion will take place following some confusion between city staff and Lewiston Housing regarding the application process and timeline for approval.

Chris Kilmurry, executive director of Lewiston Housing, said this week that despite losing out on the key funding “we’ll go through the process.”

“We’re going to have to back into it a bit and try to see if we can figure something out, if approved,” he said. “All we were doing from the get-go was trying to figure this out and to fill a gap in service. With this funding that was there, we felt it was important to try.”

The proposed shelter was a collaboration between Lewiston Housing, Community Concepts and the Immigrant Resource Center, which planned to operate the shelter using the grant from MaineHousing. The grant was part of legislation approved last year that provided funding for homeless shelters in Maine.


The former Sun Journal office building at 104 Park St. in Lewiston was slated to become a 37-bed shelter, but a longer than anticipated application process led to the project losing $3.7 million in state funding. Judy Meyer/Sun Journal file

Lewiston Housing owns the former Sun Journal building at 104 Park St., where the shelter was planned to be a two-year temporary service. The plan was to begin with 25 beds and eventually offer 37.

The discussion Tuesday will likely center on components of the application that were previously deemed “incomplete” by staff. That decision, as well as a new legal notice, led city officials to postpone a vote on the shelter to June 20, putting the project beyond a June 12 state deadline for funding.

Following the Planning Board meeting in April when the board approved a conditional use permit for the shelter, June 6 was chosen as the date for the council review. MaineHousing officials, which had originally set a deadline of May 31, had said they were OK with that date.

City Administrator Heather Hunter said the city made “every effort to work with (Lewiston Housing) and expedite the process,” including having the city clerk review the initial application within a 10-day window, have staff complete its review in the same window, and have a legal ad placed.

Lewiston Housing turned in its application on May 15, but was told on May 24 that the application was deemed incomplete. A lengthy memo on the specific issues and questions from staff, compiled by City Clerk Kathy Montejo, was included.

The memo told Lewiston Housing that if it wanted the application reviewed and considered by the City Council on June 6, the city would need to have completed responses no later than June 1. Kilmurry said just before that deadline, on May 30, he was told that the city could not issue the required legal notice for the meeting until the application was deemed complete by staff.


An earlier ad had been placed advertising a hearing at the June 6 meeting, but since the application was considered incomplete, the hearing was continued by the City Council to its next regular meeting on June 20 and a new legal notice needed to be issued.

Kilmurry said if he had known about the legal ad issue, he would’ve worked to get the completed application back before June 1. He said Lewiston Housing responded to every item noted in the city’s letter on the application, including all questions from city departments that, by ordinance, review the application, as well as questions from economic development staff, a department that isn’t listed in the ordinance, he said.

“It’s just unfortunate that we took such a hardline look at the letter of the law in the ordinance, and we weren’t told ahead of time” about the legal ad issue, he said.

In the May 30 email to Kilmurry, the city apologized for running the legal ad before the application was deemed complete.

Hunter said that when Lewiston Housing submitted the “addendum application” on June 1, it began a “10-day clock for review” by city staff. The City Clerk deemed the application complete on June 7, the same day that MaineHousing told Lewiston Housing that the June 20 date for approval was too late.

Kilmurry said he went back and forth with MaineHousing and Lewiston administration in hopes of finding an earlier date for the council to meet on the matter. In Portland, the city held a special meeting on June 12 in order to secure funds for a shelter in time.


MaineHousing has said all grant funding must be committed by June 30, and without an approved project by June 12, the state needs time to reallocate the funding.

Hunter said that with the new legal ad running June 9, the earliest the council could meet was June 16, because there’s a seven-day notice requirement for public hearings. However, only two councilors were available on that date, meaning the council would not have a quorum.

The city’s initial response to the shelter application included questions about Lewiston Housing’s contract with Community Concepts to manage the shelter, policies on background checks for employees and volunteers, refusing entry to shelter guests, and more. It also included additional detailed questions from the police, fire, code enforcement and economic development departments.

One section references a “Good Neighbor” policy that states “shelter guests will be accountable for their actions that break policy within 800 feet of the shelter.” Economic development staff said that 800-foot footprint “includes a significant portion of our downtown commercial district,” and that “the city has been endeavoring for many years to revitalize and invigorate housing, retail, restaurants and entertainment in this district.”

“The licensee should be especially cognizant of, and attentive to ensuring shelter guests do not have an adverse impact in this area of the city,” it said. “What specific steps and policies are available to address the detail action items to accomplish this?”

Lewiston Housing is the first organization to go through the shelter application process after the council enacted a new shelter ordinance last year.


Kilmurry said, because of that, it was “probably likely there were going to be ambiguities in the application that would make it hard to respond to certain things in the exact way that they would want them.”

As an example, he said, the city noted that there should have been a checkmark on the application in a section on allowing safety inspections, and wanted to confirm that Lewiston Housing would comply with that item.

“There were things like that where, we’re the first ones to go through this, it’s the first time they’ve reviewed it, there may have to be room for wiggle room there,” he said. “I wish that we could’ve worked at this considering the amount of work that went into it.”

Others involved with the shelter project said this week that they were disappointed with the news that Lewiston had missed the deadline for funding.

Jim Martin, CEO of Community Concepts, which was to manage the shelter, said, “I’m disappointed by the potential loss of funding slated for serving unhoused individuals in our city.

“The number of unhoused individuals in our community continues to increase and Community Concepts Inc. remains committed to finding solutions,” he said. “We recognize the difficulty of these planning efforts and would encourage everyone to come together to find avenues forward. Funding resources of this size do not come along often.”


Lucy Bisson, chair of the Planning Board, which had approved a conditional use permit for the shelter in April, said the City Council has been “very reticent in dealing with the homeless issue in the city and I am disappointed that they are not showing any flexibility in order for this project to proceed.

“I’m disappointed that the shelter does not appear to be going forward. It was my hope that the City Council would take up this item in a timely manner,” she said.

From the moment the MaineHousing grant award was announced in Lewiston, the shelter project was controversial. On the day the shelter project was announced, city staff said they were “shocked and disappointed” and were discussing ways to “take the wind out” of the proposal. When Kilmurry went before the City Council about an unrelated project, several councilors said there had been a lack of “transparency” from the organization regarding the potential grant.

Other concerns centered on the shelter’s location at the Park Street building, which was originally planned to be part of the city’s Choice Neighborhoods program. Leaders of a multi-stakeholder cooperative who had been looking at the 104 Park St. space to establish a community food center as part of Choice Neighborhoods said they were “undermined” by the shelter proposal, but Kilmurry said the temporary two-year shelter would not have impacted that plan.

Mayor Carl Sheline said this week “it’s unfortunate that the city was able to run out the clock on (Lewiston Housing’s) shelter application.

“By providing an initial due date, and then subsequently changing that due date based on a ‘rereading’ of the ordinance, the city has effectively killed the proposal before it was even heard by the council,” he said. “I’m concerned that the city’s hostile stance toward the unhoused in our community makes it difficult to address homelessness in any meaningful way.”


When reached Thursday, City Councilor Rick LaChapelle said the council spent “a considerable amount of time” on the shelter ordinance last year so that proposals like the Park Street shelter could be properly vetted.

He said there’s “no question” the shelter license application is lengthy, but said it’s comparable to other city applications.

LaChapelle said he’s been disappointed with how both the shelter process and the food co-op discussions have played out, because they have both possibly resulted in lost grant funds. He has also routinely questioned the need for additional shelters, stating the money should instead be put toward substance use treatment and mental illness.

“I’m afraid we’re going to miss the boat because of paperwork, a clerical error,” he said. “I might not agree with (Lewiston Housing), but I respect what they do, and there’s a need.”

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story