Noah Nelson sits Feb. 5 in the living room of New Beginnings’ Marian’s House in Lewiston. The house provides 24-hour emergency housing and support for youths ages 10 to 19 years old who have either run away, or are homeless or facing intense family conflict. New Beginnings will open a 24-bed winter warming shelter at 134 College St. for 18- to 24-year-olds on Dec. 3. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file

LEWISTON — New Beginnings in Lewiston will open an overnight warming shelter in December for young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 after being awarded funding from MaineHousing.

The cities of Lewiston and Auburn, together with Community Concepts and the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine, jointly applied for the same grant but were not awarded.

New Beginnings, a nonprofit that operates a 24-hour youth shelter called Marian’s Place, as well as several other services for homeless youth and their families, received $243,000 in state funding for a 24-bed shelter — one of 10 organizations to be awarded the funds.

Chris Bicknell, executive director of New Beginnings, said its application was based on the knowledge from its existing shelter that there are young people who are either sleeping outside or staying in unsafe places who won’t go to other adult shelters in Lewiston for a variety of reasons.

“So those are the folks we’re hoping to serve,” he said. “We know the previous shelters in Lewiston didn’t really meet the developmental needs of those young adults, so that’s our goal, is to meet those needs during those winter months, and keep people alive.”

The shelter will operate from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. starting Dec. 3 through March 30 at Rowe Hall at 134 College St. Bicknell said it will have three overnight staff members, and that New Beginnings will be coordinating with the city of Lewiston “to make sure we’re meeting the community needs,” and to gather local providers so that when the shelter is closed, there are resources guests can utilize during the daytime.


At New Beginnings’ existing 24-hour shelter, there are 12 beds serving youth ages 10 to 19. Bicknell said those youth are engaged in school and/or employment, with case managers to find housing.

He said the winter shelter, for a slightly different age group, will also be connecting guests with a housing navigator.

“These are young adults who have tried to get their needs met in other ways and just haven’t been able to,” he said.

According to a MaineHousing news release last week, the state received 17 applications in total for a limited pool of funding. Other awardees include either organizations or municipally-run shelters in Augusta, Bangor, Waterville, Portland and more.

The release said organizations receiving funding were selected based on “a competitive process that included the ability of the organization to operate the facility and maintain site control, among other factors.”

Scott Thistle, communications director for MaineHousing, said the organization “did not have the resources to fund all of the proposals that came in and had to choose the most cost-effective ones — those that would help the largest number of people at the lowest costs while trying to distribute funding as equitably as possible throughout the state.”


Thistle said the applications received equaled a total request of $4.4 million in funding, but that Maine Housing only had $1.4 million available. The Community Concepts application with Lewiston and Auburn requested more than $800,000.

The proposal would’ve placed an overnight shelter at 121 Mill St. in Auburn, the same site that officials proposed last year before it was deemed that the vacant building could not be ready in time for a funding deadline.

“The large demand for these resources underscores the great need that exists in our state and we are grateful for the partners who have been awarded funds to help some of our most vulnerable residents as we head toward winter,” said MaineHousing Director Dan Brennan.

Last winter, Community Concepts and the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine ran an emergency overnight shelter at Calvary United Methodist Church in Lewiston using funding from Androscoggin County. While the shelter was heavily utilized by homeless individuals, its operation was eventually criticized by city officials for its negative impact on the surrounding area and police calls.

Despite city staff referring to the shelter as “a debacle,” Community Concepts and the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine again offered to run a proposed shelter at 104 Park St. earlier this year. The project received Planning Board approval, but a delay in City Council action led to the project missing a funding deadline. The City Council then denied a license for the project.

During those discussions, Community Concepts CEO Jim Martin defended the Calvary shelter, stating that Community Concepts was asked by the city in January 2023 to open a warming center within two days. He said the need “overwhelmed the building,” but that the effort likely saved a dozen lives during a cold winter stretch.

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