AUGUSTA — Bread of Life Ministries is planning an expansion that would add 14 beds to its 26-bed homeless shelter for families in Augusta after years of often being filled to capacity and forced to turn people away.

The proposed expansion by the nonprofit would include a two-story addition to the Hospital Street emergency overnight shelter, enough space to add four bedrooms, an office for use by caseworkers, and much-needed storage space to hold furniture and other items donated to the shelter.

John Richardson, executive director of Bread of Life Ministries, said on average the shelter turns away five to 13 people or families each month for lack of space.

“We’ve had years and years of having to answer that tough question, ‘Do you have room for me?’ with the answer of ‘No,’ ” Richardson said. “Tracking our turn-away data, we’ve reached a place where it was time to say we’ve got to do something about that, we’ve got to stop turning people away when they’re in need.”

Shelter officials also propose to expand Bread of Life’s shelter for veterans, which is adjacent to the family shelter, by adding three bedrooms to provide more space and privacy at the facility, which takes up to 12 veterans a night.

Richardson said this would double the number of bedrooms at the veterans shelter, add another full bathroom, and double the size of the cooking and eating space so everybody can eat at one sitting. He said the shelter currently contracts with VA Maine Healthcare System-Togus to provide space for 12 veterans.

“We’ll go from stacking 12 men in three bedrooms to putting them in six bedrooms,” Robinson said. “Dealing with all these things most of these men are, to be stacked together in a tiny space is just not helpful.”

One of the new bedrooms and the new bathroom will be on the first floor, providing a bedroom accessible by veterans with mobility problems.

The family shelter last year provided beds for at least one night to 143 different people, 47 of whom were children, while the veterans shelter averages about 100 different veterans a year staying there for at least one night.

In a typical month, the family shelter would get between 35 and 60 phone calls from people who are turned away, although some might be the same person calling multiple times. “We’re in a position of having a goal, a vision, to turn no one away,” Richardson said. “That’s where the dream and vision started, with our board making that commitment (to the new addition). When you look at the number of people we turn away, there is very much a need there.”

Rob Gordon, executive director of the United Way of Kennebec Valley, which provides some funds to the shelter, said he’s in favor of expanding the shelter and that Bread of Life provides valuable services in the community.

“There is a great need for the service they do,” Gordon said. “Bread of Life does a wonderful job working with families and helping people get into the workplace, or back into the workplace.”

Richardson said MaineHousing data shows that 90 percent of the people Bread of Life houses don’t return to homelessness.

The two expansions are expected to cost about $420,000, not including furnishings.

Richardson said the late Constance Merriam, a local woman who died in January 2016, left money to Bread of Life, including about $165,000 that will be used on the expansion.

The remaining $255,000 needed will have to be raised from donors. Anyone wishing to donate to Bread of Life may call the ministries at 626-3434, and donations can be made through its website: mainebreadoflife.org/support-bolm/donate/.

The proposed expansion of both of Bread of Life’s shelters, at 155 and 157 Hospital St., is scheduled to go to the Planning Board on March 27..

Richardson said they hope to have the additional shelter space in use before next winter.

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj