A tent encampment in downtown Biddeford will be moved this July. Sydney Richelieu / The Courier

The Biddeford City Council approved an interim plan to provide indoor services for unhoused residents earlier this month. The plan prioritizes finding long-term solutions that tackle the root cause of homelessness while mitigating the immediate risks of street living.

“All Biddeford residents deserve the opportunity to be indoors and safe,” Mayor Martin Grohman said. “Living in an encampment is not a dignified or healthy experience for anyone.”

Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center, located at 35 South St., will become a temporary overnight housing facility in Biddeford.

Second Congregational Church, located at 19 Crescent St., will provide overflow housing to ensure that all residents seeking indoor housing will have access to it.

Overall, the city is looking to provide at least 60 beds, Unhoused and General Assistance Supervisor Jake Hammer said.


“We’re looking at serving the citizens of Biddeford, folks that are living on the street in this town,” Hammer said. “We want to make it so they don’t have to stay in tents.”

The centers will be based around a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. warming/cooling center model, which Hammer said the city has done successfully in the winter months.

Residents will be able to stay at the shelters for anywhere from 12 to 18 months, with the end goal being finding permanent housing.

“We’re hoping we can get people housed before the end of the program,” Hammer said.

In early July, Biddeford plans to “carefully” close encampments around the city, including a current encampment at Mechanics Park on Water Street, and send those individuals to the new overnight shelters.

The city plans to use best practice, Hammer said, to ensure a humane and dignified closure.


“We recognize that folks that live on the streets have been moved by neighbors, by police, and we recognize it’s traumatic,” Hammer said. “We don’t want people to lose their things.”

Constant communication with those experiencing homelessness is key to ensuring a humane encampment closure, Hammer said. By learning each person’s individual needs, Hammer hopes to provide them with the best resources possible to get them back on their feet.

This could mean looking at taking in couples, or those with pets. It could mean finding treatment and recovery centers for those looking to get clean.

But no matter the barrier, Hammer said, he has yet to meet an unhoused person who doesn’t wish to be off the streets.

Across Maine, approximately 4,300 people were experiencing homelessness in early 2023. In May, the Portland Press Herald reported that the number of homeless students in Biddeford and Saco has risen 400% in recent years.

“It’s a nationwide issue,” Hammer said. “We as a city have decided that we want to be part of the solution.”

The new shelters are just the beginning. As the program progresses, Hammer hopes to find a regional solution for homelessness, like a functioning 24-hour shelter.

The city plans to work continuously with programs in the area to offer resources and possible solutions for those experiencing homelessness.

“I am pleased that the City Council has supported a new approach to services in order to set the bar where Biddeford is a city where people live inside,” Grohman said.

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