February 26, 2013

Proposals sought for interim housing in Portland

A city task force has recommended three complexes for the chronically homeless.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – City officials are moving forward with proposals to reduce homelessness, including a call for proposals to build transitional housing in Portland.

click image to enlarge

Maine HUD field director Bill Burney, Angela Havlin, Alicia Martinez and Josh O'Brien all with the Oxford Street Shelter interview a homeless man (in the tunnel) under the Casco Bay Bridge as the city of Portland conducted its annual homeless point in time survey on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. City officials said Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 they are moving forward with proposals to reduce homelessness, including a call for proposals to build transitional housing in Portland.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

The City Council's Housing and Community Development Committee will discuss plans for soliciting development proposals during a meeting Wednesday at City Hall.

A city-appointed task force studied homelessness for more than a year and recommended building three new specialized housing complexes for the chronically homeless, among other initiatives.

Each building should have 35 units and in-housing counseling services for residents, the task force said.

That type of housing is part of what is known as the housing-first model. It provides stable housing to chronically homeless individuals so they can concentrate on stabilizing their lives, getting health care and seeking employment. There are two housing-first complexes in Portland -- Logan Place and Florence House.

Mary Davis, the city's housing director, said there is roughly $1 million in federal HOME funds available to support and encourage housing development in Portland in the coming year.

Another $735,000 is available from the city's Housing Replacement fund.

City Councilor Kevin Donoghue, who serves on the committee, said he is open to seeking development proposals and offering incentives.

However, the city needs to address the underlying zoning issues that right now only allow such housing units on the peninsula, he said.

"The key ... is we finally get to work removing the zoning barriers to building affordable housing in all parts of the city," he said.

Davis said her goal is for the committee to approve a request for development proposals by the end of March, which would allow the city to release it publicly in April.

The move forward on development comes as the city's Health and Human Services Department is building its budget for anti-homelessness initiatives in the coming year.

Director Doug Gardner said he will meet with the City Council's Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee in March to finalize initiatives that may include a homeless medical respite program, an emergency shelter for people trying to stay sober, and expanding outreach efforts to the homeless.

Meanwhile, Gardner said the city also is working with the Portland Housing Authority and the Preble Street Resource Center on a new housing plan that may help move some of the city's homeless out of emergency shelters.

The PHA has set aside 40 housing vouchers for the chronically homeless, who will be able to use them to rent apartments all over the city.

Preble Street is expected to provide counseling and peer support for the new tenants, while the city will work with landlords.

 

Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @randybillings

 

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