Biddeford officials walk through the homeless encampment on Monday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Portland Press Herald

A homeless encampment on Water Street in Downtown Biddeford was officially cleared on Monday morning.

Those living in the encampment were directed to pack their belongings, store what they couldn’t carry in a locked bin, and were given space at a local shelter nearby.

The closure is the first step in an interim plan to provide indoor services for the unhoused enacted by the city last month.

“This is a big step for the city in moving towards a healthier community,” Mayor Martin Grohman said Monday. “We remain committed to getting this right.”

On Monday night, Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center, located at 35 South St., officially opened its overnight program. Running overnight from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. – it’s also open during the day on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Biddeford residents experiencing homelessness can stay at Seeds of Hope, get access to clean clothes and a shower, and enjoy a hot meal for free.


Currently, Seeds of Hope can accommodate about 20 people at their center overnight, but the program is currently working on renovations to be able to accommodate many more in the next few months, Executive Director Vassie Fowler said.

Overflow accommodations for 25-30 people is located across the street at Second Congregational Church.

“We’re not turning anyone away,” Fowler said. “We’ll figure it out.”

Seeds of Hope in downtown Biddeford is now open as an overnight shelter for those experiencing homelessness. Sydney Richelieu / The Courier

Serving almost 100 people a day through the day program and overnight program, everything provided by Seeds of Hope is free and available to those experiencing homelessness.

The shelter mainly deals with those experiencing chronic homelessness, Fowler said, which includes those who have been unhoused for at least a year, or repeatedly.

To provide the most access possible, Seeds of Hope is as low-barrier as it can get. While on the premises, those staying are asked simply to leave substances off the property, be respectful, and not engage in fighting, violence, or stealing.


There are no drug tests, and no ID necessary to enter the building, although Seeds of Hope will help those without an ID apply for one.

However, anyone who wants to stay at the facility in Biddeford will have to go through the General Assistance intake process, according to the Portland Press Herald, which can also qualify them for assistance for food and other basic needs. The city will establish a daily fee to charge the GA program to cover some of the cost of providing shelter, and the state will reimburse 70%. Portland uses the same approach.

The initial cost will be about $319,000 to cover staffing, operational costs and supplies. The estimated daily cost to run the shelter is $1,250 per facility, city officials said.

Seeds of Hope also will receive $788,000 from the city to renovate the main floor of its building into a shelter space for 30 to 40 people. That funding is from federal Community Development Block Grant money that the City Council has already designated for housing solutions.

“Most everyone who walks through the door has a substance abuse or mental health issue, and that’s why we’re there,” Fowler said.

Through Seeds of Hope, those experiencing homelessness can also get access to services to find housing.


For many, this doesn’t necessarily look like a traditional apartment set up, Fowler said. Instead, housing can look like a sober living facility, group homes, or other forms of treatment.

“It will be different for every person who walks through the door,” Fowler said.

As up to 60 individuals move into Seeds of Hope and the neighboring church this week, the debris left behind at Water Street will be cleared away, and the lot will soon be used as a construction landing zone.

For the city of Biddeford, it’s not about just clearing the lot.

“The conditions at the encampment were inhumane,” Fowler said. “No one should be living there.”

However, not all are in favor of the the city’s plan for dealing with the unhoused.


Tammy Harvison, who founded the group The White Butterfly With a Cause, has spent seven months helping people at the encampment with food, laundry and searches for housing and rehabilitation services, according to the Portland Press Herald.

She said she is angry about the city’s plan and doesn’t believe the shelter can support as many people as city officials say it will.

Harvison said the city hasn’t done as much as officials say to support the homeless community. They begged to have the portable toilet and dumpster emptied regularly to keep the encampment clean, but the city didn’t follow through, she said.

As Harvison watched people packing up, she said closing the encampment is wrong. She said many of them will move to a new location – she wouldn’t say where – and she’ll continue to support them there.

“I’m heartbroken. This devastates me,” she said. “It’s not fair. It’s inhumane and it’s wrong.”

Portland Press Herald Reporter Gillian Graham contributed to this story.

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