State Rep. Poppy Arford, who represents part of Brunswick in District 101. Courtesy Poppy Arford

A Brunswick lawmaker’s bill to create grants for emergency shelters has gained support from fellow legislators.

State Rep. Poppy Arford, a Democrat, sponsored L.D. 1844, which would allow the state’s roughly 35 full-time emergency shelters to apply for grants to expand, renovate or acquire new buildings.

“We simply don’t have enough emergency housing for people statewide,” Arford said. “We need more places for people to live temporarily.”

A survey earlier this year found Maine’s homeless population doubled to 4,411 from 2019 to 2022. The state has also been struggling this year to provide housing for hundreds of asylum seekers.

Lawmakers approved an initial version of Arford’s bill and the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee last week agreed to authorize $257,000 to get it started. Arford had originally requested $5 million, but she said it’s a start.

“This is a piece of the puzzle” to address the state’s housing crisis, she said.


The Emergency Housing Matching Grant Program would be managed by the Maine State Housing Authority.

The bill would be subject to lawmakers’ approval again when they reconvene next week before it can go to Gov. Janet Mills for consideration. Arford said she’s confident it will get done.

Arford, who is in her second term, said emergency housing is among her top priorities. She recalled the November 2019 death of a homeless Brunswick man who was found in a sleeping bag in frigid weather.

“I remember reading that story and knowing I had to do absolutely whatever I could to prevent that from happening here or anywhere in the state of Maine,” she said. “That’s what this bill is about.”

Andrew Lardie, executive director of Tedford Housing, which runs the Midcoast’s only emergency shelter in Brunswick, is cautiously optimistic lawmakers will approve the grant program.

“Historically the state has not offered much funding to support capital improvements (for emergency shelters),” he said. “We’re grateful Poppy was a fierce advocate of getting this funding. This is a worthy cause to do more to meet the unmet need in our communities.”


Tedford is building a new shelter expected to break ground next year.

Arford’s bill was amended to require a shelter to secure matching funding from a source other than the state for requests over $100,000.

Lardie said it could help some of state’s smaller shelters.

“The scale of this isn’t going to move the needle a lot right now, but the creation of this channel is important moving ahead,” he said.

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