Avesta Housing is looking to build a 30-unit apartment building near Morrill’s Corner in Portland for chronically homeless people with chronic medical conditions.

The $5 million project hinges on the nonprofit housing agency getting $3.8 million in housing tax credits and operational funding from the state, and 30 housing vouchers from the Portland Housing Authority.

If the project moves forward, it will become the city’s third housing development built specifically for the chronically homeless, or those with disabilities who have been homeless for at least a year or had three episodes of homelessness within a three-year period.

The project will be modeled after the 30-unit Logan Place at 52 Frederic St., which opened in 2005 as the city’s first effort to provide permanent, supportive housing to the chronically homeless. It’s a model often referred to as “housing first,” because it provides a stable living environment so people can deal with other factors contributing to their homelessness.

The other housing-first facility is the Florence House at 190 Valley St., which opened in 2009 and mostly serves women who are victims of domestic violence.

With homelessness in Portland increasing as a result of the Great Recession, the city launched a task force in 2011 to develop a plan to tackle the problem. The city’s Homeless Prevention Task Force issued a series of recommendations in 2012 that included building three additional supportive housing complexes.


Mayor Michael Brennan said the latest project is an opportunity to act on the task force’s work.

“I know people in Portland are committed to ending homelessness, and this is the best way we know to do that in the city,” Brennan said.

Currently, most of the city’s social services are located on the peninsula, primarily in the Bayside neighborhood. The task force recommended that the additional housing complexes be built off the peninsula and in other communities, if possible.

Avesta development officer Greg Payne said the agency made a deliberate decision to propose the new project at 72-78 Bishop St. to honor that off-peninsula recommendation. “This is very much in response to the work of the homelessness task force,” he said.

On Monday, the City Council voted to rezone the 1.16-acre property from a moderate industrial and residential zone to a community business zone to allow the development to move forward. Only four people spoke on the rezoning issue. They supported the project, but some had concerns about traffic and safety around Morrill’s Corner in general.

Payne said Avesta expects to hear back from the state on its funding requests in the coming weeks. Once most of the financing is lined up, the agency will submit its site plan to the city with the goal of breaking ground next fall, he said.


Mayfield Road resident Matt Hutton, who is married and has two children, told the Press Herald on Friday that he has many concerns about the project beyond traffic. Among them is that there are not enough services available in the area, including places other than gas stations in which to buy food.

Bishop Street also lacks sidewalks, and that could lead to people wandering down the middle of the street, he said, pointing to Spurwick’s Bishop Street clinic for abused children.

“Spurwink is a good example of a great place in the wrong location,” Hutton said. “Their needs are not met by their location. They need to exercise the tenants living there, and their only ‘walk’ or exposure for the day to the outside is a treacherous walk down Bishop.”

Jon Bradley, associate director at Preble Street, which staffs Florence House and Logan Place, said between two and five staffers would be at the Bishop Street facility 24 hours a day to ensure that any issues with residents do not spill into the neighborhood. It would cost about $800,000 annually to staff Bishop Street, he said.

“Most of our issues are internal,” Bradley said. “We handle them in-house and not in the community, and we expect that.”

Bradley said Logan Place’s success lies in the fact that 10 of the original 30 residents still live at the facility and have agreed to receive services, including those dealing with substance abuse and mental illness. Those no longer there either died or found more independent living arrangements, and very few have returned to the shelter, he said.


A seven-year review of Logan Place found that residents received 35 percent more in mental health services at 46 percent of the cost of emergency care. There were other cost savings as well: Emergency room costs declined by 62 percent, health care expenses by 59 percent, ambulance transportation by 66 percent, police contact by 66 percent, incarceration by 62 percent and shelter visits by 98 percent.

Portland police issued a letter in support of the Bishop Street project, noting the past successes at the Florence House and Logan Place.

Rob Parritt, director of the Oxford Street Shelter, said the housing complex would immediately reduce overcrowding at the city-run shelter.

With more people seeking shelter than there are beds available, an overflow shelter has been opened at the Preble Street Resource Center, and in some cases the city’s General Assistance office has been used to house overflow.

Although the city has seen a downturn in the number of homeless people at the shelter, Parritt said the Bishop Street development would fill a critical need.

“(Bishop Street) would have a huge impact,” he said. “Any supportive housing is a good thing and we don’t have enough of it in the city of Portland.”

People discharged from the hospital to the shelter often have mobility issues, are incontinent, or have significant medical needs. Those with medical conditions require more space and more specialized resources, which in many cases the shelter cannot provide.

“Really, a lot of these guys and ladies need (certified nursing assistant-level) care and we really don’t have that here,” Parritt said. “I would love it (if) something like (Bishop Street) would open tomorrow, but I know it’s a long-term thing.”

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