FARMINGTON – You can’t always tell there are homeless people in a rural Maine town. They aren’t panhandling or sleeping on street corners.

But across Franklin County, there is a growing population of homeless residents sleeping on couches or living in tents, according to a group of area residents.

The residents — representing local social service agencies and churches — have formed Western Maine Homeless Outreach and are preparing to open the county’s first homeless shelter in October in the basement of Farmington’s Living Waters Assembly of God Church.

It will be one of 44 shelters in Maine.

According to the Maine State Housing Authority’s annual “point-in-time survey,” there were 1,175 homeless people in Maine on Jan. 30, the day of the survey.

The Rev. Steve Bracy said his Wilton Road church volunteered to host the shelter on a temporary basis until there is money to build a free-standing shelter.

He said in the past the church tried to open a homeless shelter for teenagers, but the project lacked community support and eventually lost momentum.

That has changed this time, Bracy said, noting that organizers have been meeting once a week and would-be donors are calling him.

The shelter will eventually have 20 to 24 beds and house families. Singles will be referred to other places.

Bracy said the church has been able to house an adult or adult and child in the church basement in a motel-style room originally intended for visiting pastors or missionaries.

The church, however, often needs to refer people in need to other agencies or shelters.

Kaitlin Schroeder can be contacted at 861-9252 or at:

kschroeder@mainetoday.com