Calvary United Methodist Church at 59 Sabattus St. in Lewiston, seen Monday, is being proposed for an overnight warming shelter. The Auburn City Council voted unanimously Monday night to pay its share to operate it. If Lewiston councilors approve that city’s share Tuesday, the center would be run by the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine of Lewiston starting Thursday and run until April 5. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

AUBURN — The cities of Lewiston and Auburn are teaming up to fund an overnight warming center at Calvary United Methodist Church on Sabattus Street, which hosted an emergency shelter last year.

The Auburn City Council unanimously approved its share of funding Monday for a proposal brought forward by the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine. If approved by the Lewiston council Tuesday, the warming center would open Thursday and run until April 5. Hours would be 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday, and 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday “to accommodate the limited services over the weekend,” according to a memo.

The Immigrant Resource Center’s proposal requested $98,223 from Lewiston and $89,306 from Auburn.

Asked about how the cost breakdown was decided, City Manager Phil Crowell said it was negotiated between the two cities. Part of the talks, Mayor Jeff Harmon said, was recognition Lewiston is likely to absorb additional costs beyond the budget through other city services.

Fatuma Hussein, executive director of the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine, said the center could host up to 80 people a night, with three staff members and one security person. She said they will have case management and collect data that could help assist individuals.

“I want to thank the organization for your leadership and compassion, and coordinated approach,” Councilor Tim Cowan said. “We’ve said for awhile it’s a community issue, and that it’s not one side or the other, and this is a great example.”


“We can’t put a price on a human’s life and I’m glad we’re doing something,” Councilor Belinda Gerry said.

Following Auburn’s vote, Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline said, “I am looking forward to the possibility of collaborating with Auburn on this warming shelter.”

Last year, after the two cities could not agree on funding, the Androscoggin County Commission funded a warming center at Calvary church, which was run by Community Concepts and the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine. Once in operation, it was not received well by neighbors and the project received considerable criticism from city officials.

When a shelter project at 104 Park St. was proposed in early 2023, a draft letter from city staff called the Calvary United Methodist Church warming center a “debacle.”

“That initiative resulted in theft and destruction of church property, rampant substance abuse and overdoses on site and adjacent to it, and a very small percentage of guests utilizing supportive services,” the letter said.

Bill Reed, a church board trustee, said last year’s warming center “got a bad rap, like we did something wrong.” He said he wasn’t sure the church board was going to approve it this year. But, he said, he’s confident this year’s center will run more smoothly.


“We learned a lot of good lessons last year,” he said. “We all have a better grip on what it’s going to take to be more in control, with things in place that should’ve been last year.”

He also said the Immigrant Resource Center staff “know the building, and how it’ll operate.”

“This is the only place that we know of that’s already approved for this purpose that’s available in either Lewiston or Auburn,” he said. “It’s a very temporary solution for a big problem.”

Lewiston police said there were a total of 147 calls for service at Calvary United Methodist Church between Jan. 17 and March 31, 2023, of which 53 were “self-initiated” or “proactive” calls by officers for things like property site checks, checking on staff, foot patrols, and more.

Hussein said they plan to more closely assess who is coming in, and “not run into the emergency mode we ran into last year.”

Reed said last year that the center did not open each night until midnight, which led to its own set of problems.


“Overnight starts at dark, not midnight,” he said.

He said he hoped it would be operating by Feb. 1 but that he’s “thankful the two cities came together.”

Lewiston councilors will vote Tuesday to approve its share of $98,223. The funds are proposed to come from an American Rescue Plan Act grant program the city created, which still has $300,000 available.

According to a Lewiston council memo, a separate proposal was brought forward by the nonprofit Kaydenz Kitchen, which said the organization could run the shelter for $69,000 less than the IRC plan. It’s unclear whether the Lewiston council will consider the alternate proposal Tuesday, and if so, how that would impact the funding for IRC already approved by Auburn.

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