BRUNSWICK — Tedford Housing officials are taking a breather now that town officials have approved new rules and licensing standards for homeless shelters, ending a yearlong delay that forced Tedford to put its expansion plans on the back burner.

“It’s been a long and thorough process,” executive director Craig Phillips said Friday. “We are taking a pause; it has involved a lot of time and energy.”

Tedford Housing’s family emergency shelter is located on Federal Street in Brunswick. Tedford hopes to build a new resource center that would include a new emergency family shelter and adult shelter, and centralize its existing services.  (Times Record file photo)

Tedford Housing, the only homeless shelter in town with a singles facility on Cumberland Street and an apartment-style family shelter on Federal street, has been struggling to keep up with demand for its space.

In 2018, Tedford had to turn away 354 individuals and 228 families because they did not have enough beds. The shelter then proposed a 70-bed shelter and resource center, but the proposal was entangled in long procedural zoning ordinance process after town officials realized the town had never been zoned for homeless shelters, despite the fact that Tedford had been operating in town for decades. The zoning was finally approved at an April 8 public hearing, allowing Tedford to move forward with its plans.

Much has changed since they first approached the town council back in early 2018, Phillips said. There have been staffing and other changes that will require Tedford to reevaluate the plan and rework the committees that had been working on the project, he said.

They will also need to find a space for the shelter and resource center, which may be a challenge after the new zoning rules prohibited new shelters from all of Brunswick’s residential areas and added a requirement for a 1,000-foot buffer between any two shelters not on the same parcel of land.

“The (land use) zoning will allow us to pursue searching for a spot,” he said, although possible locations are looking “few and far between.”

The performance standards Tedford will have to operate under are “fairly minimal at this point,” he said. During a public hearing on the regulations, many spoke against a proposed six-month cap on the duration of stay, which the council agreed to remove. They also extended the relicensing period to five years instead of three, which Phillips said he appreciated, given that they already participate in the Maine State Housing Monitoring Program, which includes an annual inspection visit.

However, they did not take out a requirement that shelters will have to operate 24 hours per day, which Tedford currently does not.

“We would prefer operational details be left to the provider,” Phillips said, as this will be an “additional cost” to consider with the new resource center and be “one more hurdle to account for.” They will still encourage guests to “maintain the regular routine” of leaving for the day to seek gainful employment and permanent housing, he said.

The town council also agreed to exempt existing shelters from needing to obtain a license, which means that Tedford will not have to go through the licenses process until officials are ready to open a new facility.

Until then, Phillips said they will catch their breath and then start to take a look at the next steps, including another look at reestablishing the capital campaign which was put on hold after the town stalled the project.

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