Franklin Countys First News

Planning Board revokes support of WMHO relocation

A large crowd filled the Farmington Community Center last night for a public hearing on the WMHO relocation.

FARMINGTON - A heated meeting, both physically and emotionally, stretched well past 9 p.m. last night as the Planning Board and roughly 150 people discussed the future home of Western Maine Homeless Outreach.

The shelter, which currently operates out of the basement of Living Waters Assembly of God on Route 2, was seeking approval from the board to move into the Holman House, owned by Old South Congregational Church. Their lease has been extended by Living Waters several times, but they are in need of a new location. The board approved the request last month, categorizing the shelter as a ‘group home’ in order to comply with town ordinances. The town has no regulations when it comes to placement of shelters, therefore the board was advised by Town Attorney Amanda Meader to find the best possible fit. This is standard practice when there is a lack of fitting regulation, she said.

Since that meeting, property owners John and Jen Moore who abut the Holman House, sought legal counsel to address the matter. A public hearing was scheduled to revisit the topic which resulted in roughly two hours of debate and comment, including three approved overtime sessions.

“We feel like it needs to go into a different location. There needs to be a homeless shelter, there’s no question about that, but there are a lot of reservations both privately and publicly about that specific location. There has to be a balance. A balance between business and what we need for the homeless. I think we can reach that balance,” Moore said to the audience.

More than 15 people stood to share their thoughts, many in favor of the move. Those that supported the idea said that it seemed like a good fit and that they would happily welcome the shelter as their neighbor in town. They said they felt the location would be a good distance to schools, the community center and other resources, and that it could allow for an easier connection for volunteerism with the college. Those that spoke against the decision noted the limited hours of the shelter- they close doors during the day- and that they were worried that would increase loitering in town and potentially increase police activity.

"We've been open for six years. You don't think they're already in downtown Farmington? That's where they're going, that's where the resources are...There is a lot of stigma attached to homelessness, whatever everyone is thinking that's negative is what everyone is thinking. And that's not the case," WMHO Coordinator Andrew Parlin said.

Former Town Attorney Frank Underkuffler pointed out that the ordinance for that zone does require a “group home” to be licensed by the state, which WMHO is not. Director of Operations at WMHO Bobbie Jo Wheeler said that no such license exists, but that they are fully registered with the Maine Housing Authority and have to comply to those standards.

"It's natural to be sympathetic towards persons experiencing homelessness...It is also natural to be sympathetic when a local popular church is backing the project. But it is your duty as board members, as it is mine as a citizen, to put your personal sympathies and feelings aside. An approval cannot be granted or denied based on who is applying for it or who would benefit from it," Underkuffler said.

The board voted to revoke their June 9 vote, essentially killing the application.

Moore offered to chair a finance committee to help the shelter find a different, better suited location. WMHO staff and Moore will meet later this week to discuss the project.

"The good thing that came out of this is that John invited us to come together and find a new location. We wasted a lot of time and money, but sometimes that's what you have to do. Now we can look forward to a place where we can really expand," Living Waters Pastor Steve Bracy said.

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42 Responses »

  1. Not in my back yard perfectly summed up.

  2. Gee it sounds to me that the Farmington Town doesn't want the homeless in town.

  3. The town attorney sounds like a leftist who supports gentrification, it's pretty much, "We need a shelter, but only as long as nobody respectable has to look at it or see the homeless people." If there is no such laws on the books and the building they want to use meets the codes for a multiple occupant dwelling, then I fail to see the problem. But this is what sucks about a leftist run county, they all say people need help, yet don't want to help, for reference, please see San Fransisco.

  4. There needs to be a homeless shelter, there’s no question about that, but there are a lot of reservations both privately and publicly about that specific location

    these people are no different than those in portland who with one breath claim to be humanitarians and the next complain that the poor are a blight on the city. put your money where you mouth is.

    they were worried that would increase loitering in town and potentially increase police activity.

    where else would people loiter, wal-mart? the resources are downtown. the public areas are downtown. it's insane that the shelter has been as far out of town for as long as it has been, with a lack of reliable public transportation and no sidewalks. if you folks ever had to walk a day in the shoes of someone at that shelter you would not be so stingy.

    i was homeless as a teen, in maine and elsewhere, and i eventually earned a degree from UMF while often being homeless. mostly i slept in a tent in the woods. if someone had told me i could stay at a warm and safe shelter, but i would need to get myself out by wal-mart and get lost first thing in the morning, i would have said no thanks. i spent my time in libraries, public parks, restaurants, and lecture halls, and you probably never noticed me. the "loitering" that would take place is the same as it is now, because there's nowhere else for people to go other than downtown, where they already are. people who worry about loitering are people that don't believe others have the right to exist without paying for it.

    For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

    deuteronomy 15:11

  5. Thank you, myopic, for your poignant first-person account of being in a situation that nobody deserves.

    As for "...a leftist who supports gentrification"... ??? I don't get it.

  6. Good job! Thankfully, someone is looking out for the townspeople. It's all nice to be sympathetic but sometimes you need to think with your head instead of with your heart.

  7. Wow look at em pounce!!
    So funny to read anything that remotely resembles compassion from the one and only HrtlssBstrd..
    Question,, do any of you on your soap box live next to a shelter?
    Didn't think so.

    Ya know,,, Pastor Bracey seems fine working out a "better" situation . So why do you guys paint the objectors in this light when THEY are the ones stepping up. What are YOU doing to help the disadvantaged?? (Besides writing useless criticism to the Bulldog).

    Our society needs to care for the "least of these".
    It's a very complex problem.
    Thank You to those offering to help.

  8. HB- it is not the town attorney who is against the move. It is two people and their "highly paid" Portland attorney.

  9. The Sun Journal is reporting that the Planning Board deferred action on this, not that they voted to revoke support. Can someone who was at the meeting confirm whether or not the Planning Board actually voted on this?

  10. Typical NIMBY sentiment, sure send them somewhere else.

  11. This is really sad news. It's a perfect example of the wealthy blocking assistance for the needy. The Moores do so much good for this town, why would they draw the line here. Andrew Parlin said it best in this article. There is a lot of stigma surrounding homelessness. It needs to end. Not all homelss are criminals. They are human beings. They need help, they should be able to have adequate resources to get it, especially if they are actively trying to better their situation. I wish WMHO the best of luck in finding a suitable location to assist oir less fortunate residents. Keep fighting the good fight!

  12. It is hard to get back on your feet when others look at you as undesirable. I am not sure of the answer to this problem. But I know someone who does. I will be praying that GOD helps in this situation.

  13. KW, I'm a part time volunteer at the homeless shelter in Waterville, I have built wheelchair ramps for poor people, cut, lugged and stacked more cords than I remember, put new roofs on for people who couldn't afford it, bought and delivered materials and clothing to families who were burned out, taken warm blankets and personal care products to the migrant blueberry rakers, shoveled out more old people than I can count, Cooked a Christmas dinner for poor people a few times, and other things, Why, because helping people help themselves is what it is all about. All while maintaining my own life. So the next time you want to call somebody out "What have YOU done." it is probably best not to make a broad sweeping assumption about people you don't know.

  14. "Keyboard Warriors.. UGH."


    It's far from "useless criticism"

    Pastor Bracey has wisely turned the other cheek and is trying to make lemonade having been handed lemons.

    The rest of us are left shaking our heads. A right-wing, conservative board votes it down when prominent business owner neighbors complain and throw money at the problem with a Portland lawyer. Classic NIMBY. Volunteering to chair a finance committee won't absolve "the objectors" from the stain they now have.

    Ironically, "the objectors" benefited from a much reduced price on their mini-mansion when the last owner (without as much clout) failed to keep another prominent business owner neighbor from doing what he wanted with his Main St building (adding a multi-apartment addition). The last owner left town and gave up on how this small town is being run.

    Money talks, even in small town Maine.

  15. He who is without sin, throw the first stone.

    If John is the devil you guys are saying he is,, why are the movie prices the lowest anywhere? He could legitimately charge a LOT more.
    He is an excellent steward of what he has worked for.
    Takes care of his stuff and be works his butt off.
    All of which greatly benefits many many people.
    I'll stand by this very good man by saying you guys are off base painting him like this.
    Thank you John for the many things you do for so many others.
    The VAST majority of the people around here appreciate what you do for us.

  16. Mary - The Board in June voted to review the project, and last night re-voted to not review - therefore rejecting the shelter. An attorney representing those opposed to the project pressured the Board to reject the proposal. Additionally, Selectmen were lobbied to also pressure Planning Board members to reject the proposal.

  17. Yes many people don't like ANYONE that has money.
    These comments are not only wrong,, they are indeed useless.
    You guys just sound hysterically jealous.

    Next time you go to the movies,, pay the going price (which is almost twice what is charged by the "greedy owner").

    Drop the drama and go DO something for someone else.

  18. Go HB !!
    TOOT that horn..

  19. Wow, anybody ever see the movie "Its A Wonderful Life"? Farmington has turned into Pottersville. Main Street now belongs to the haves but not the have nots. This should be put to a town vote, not decided by a planning board that flip flopped.

  20. It’s sad that the Bjorn/Moore machine has control of anything happening in downtown Farmington but that’s reality. Deep pockets usually prevail. However smack in the middle of downtown is not the best location for this. Why don’t all you compassionate folks open your own doors?

  21. There it is,, the political card, provided by Disenchanted.
    The Right Wing vs Left Wing Thing..
    The Conservative vs Liberal Thing.
    You forgot to blame the Pres....

    Btw,, the objectors have no stain for pointing out the fact that this building/location has issues.
    If you don't know that it's because your are misinformed.

    The thing is,, those throwing all the stones don't care about any facts,, you are just pouncing out of ignorance. Turn the news channel you watch.

    I care deeply about and actively help the less fortunate but I have always questioned this choice (a lot of which had to do with the physical condition and renovation costs of that building). Which according to you guys makes me a bad person. Ok fine. I can live with that "stain".

    The liberals don't do any more for the disadvantaged than the conservatives. The left isn't any more compassionate than the right. You guys that play that card are very "small".

  22. HB,you just might be the nicest person we don 't know.Thank you for the compassion you've written of.You have been very busy,where do you find the time for comments and research posted here?

  23. Talking to someone who has done a ton of research on homelessness; getting homeless people into a better situation requires stable housing. Simple apartments - similar to Studio apartments are the answer, NOT a shelter. So perhaps someone can come up with an answer, but having shelter does not seem to be the answer, no matter where it is located.
    All the do-gooders seem to forget one thing - UMF, with young students, is very close by. We haven't had many incidents with UMF, but could happen. That would be my concern.
    The loitering thing is very much a concern. Wal*Mart experiences it now. They've had homeless blocking their doors - both in and out.

  24. I attended the meeting. The bottom line was that the planning board decided that the proposed location didn't meet current zoning parameters for a shelter. It is a matter of law, not who the neighbors are or how much money they have.
    If the town manager had been clear about this to begin with, none of this mess would have happened. I didn't hear a single person who was against having a shelter. Now the next step is to find a place that is zoned correctly and to raise enough money to buy it. I invite all of you commenters to send your monetary donations to WMHO for that purpose. I'm hopeful that since Old South has seen this as their mission that they will be at the forefront of contributors even though it the shelter will not be their neighbor.

  25. What about the home of the Catholic Church that is located on Middle St. right beside the Community Center? I don't believe that is being occupied.

  26. When the committee has a meeting could it be posted on here so people may attend that have ideas to share.

  27. Just a few points...

    Homeless shelter residents shouldn't be forced to "loiter" . Currently residents are turned out every morning and allowed to return in the evening. If the shelter becomes a 24 Hour shelter (which takes money for staffing, utilities etc), there would be no loitering as residents would not have to find a place to go.

    Although ideal in many ways, Holman House would first need at least $150,000 in renovations and would still only be a rental situation. Very minimal money has been raised for this.

    Because Farmington zoning is the way it is, it doesn't look like there can be some place walkable to downtown. A shuttle van will be needed (this also takes money).

  28. Farmington seems like a college with a town problem. Clearly, the townspeople and business owners don't want a homeless shelter downtown. Figure it out.

    The college, which every year reduces the town tax base, should step up and get the homeless student meal passes and gym time. Maybe a reduced rate on credit hours. It would serve the kidos well to rub elbows with the folks their parents will be supporting. The good news is, there is now daily bus service to Lewistan so the downtrodden and the illegals can get all the freebies from the Lewistan taxpayers they need.

    It's somewhat ironic that people from Africa are coming here for everything we give away free when we have he lowest unemployment rates in our history. Thank you President Trump. If anyone, American or illegal, is collecting welfare or unemployment at this point, they plain don't want any job and they are just using the system.

  29. "Good People..":

    If John is the devil you guys are saying he is,, why are the movie prices the lowest anywhere? He could legitimately charge a LOT more.

    what does this have to do with anything? mr. moore's business model has nothing to do with this discussion. i personally respect the man and do not think he is a bad person at all, but good people can be wrong and in this situation i believe that he is. suggesting that he is absolved because has done his part for the poor and needy by keeping movie prices low is beyond absurd. nobody in the comments is slandering mr. moore by disagreeing with him. this is your interpretation.

    "Chicken Wing":

    There it is,, the political card, provided by Disenchanted.

    since you're bringing up "throwing stones" and "facts," i'll have to remind you that the "political card" you're so bothered by was played much earlier by a sadly misguided commenter accusing "leftists" of being responsible for not wanting housing for the homeless. you're shifting the argument to be about the condition of the building but that's not what's printed in the article. the specific objection attributed to mr. moore is "reservations both privately and publicly about that specific location. There has to be a balance. A balance between business and what we need for the homeless." you're right that this should not be a left v. right argument, but you're distorting things.

    "Nancy Porter":

    Talking to someone who has done a ton of research on homelessness; getting homeless people into a better situation requires stable housing. Simple apartments - similar to Studio apartments are the answer, NOT a shelter. So perhaps someone can come up with an answer, but having shelter does not seem to be the answer, no matter where it is located.
    All the do-gooders seem to forget one thing - UMF, with young students, is very close by. We haven't had many incidents with UMF, but could happen. That would be my concern.
    The loitering thing is very much a concern. Wal*Mart experiences it now. They've had homeless blocking their doors - both in and out.

    great idea, nancy. you're right that there's significant data showing that a "housing first" approach to homelessness has been far more effective that triage. unfortunately i don't see anybody stepping up in our community and too few in our society as a whole to make this a viable option at present. i disagree slightly that having a shelter isn't the answer. it certainly isn't the best answer, but given the hand we're dealt, it seems to be the best answer we can make happen.


  31. As a therapist who has worked with homeless people, it's really important to know the facts: you enter a shelter because a life-changing even has occurred, you have NOTHING, and you need access to local resources in order to rebuild. Quite often these folks have left abusive relationships and their access to income and transportation have been cut off. They need to find resources within walking distance as their first step.

    I'm unsure of what the preconceived ideas or assumptions are, regarding those opposed to shelters in-town, but I agree that gentrification, an us versus them mentality, and stereotypes are quite possibly at the root of the problem.

    Housing wont help them until they have employment, transportation, and basic needs. Otherwise they'll just cycle through homelessness again.

  32. Untrue Words
    Screeched from Angry Birds...
    They can't hear a thing
    Cause they're so busy yelling...
    Reality is lost, but they don't care
    Go along with the flock, hate those "over there"...
    Kill them now, as you've been shown
    On the count of 3,, throw your stone..

    I MISSED IT,,.
    "WHO" said homeless people are bad??
    These personal attack comments are so far off base,,,
    But then again,, "There is nothing new under the sun".
    Angry Birds have been around......


  34. John Moore is the only person to offer a potential solution. He has generously offered to chair a finance committee to help the homeless shelter reach its goal. There is no doubt that a homeless shelter is necessary in Franklin County. It all boils down to finding a location and a plan that works for everyone. There is no reason to not support the businesses John runs in Farmington. As far as I'm concerned, John is a stand up guy, business man and is willing to help the shelter achieve its goals. Thanks John!!

  35. "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished"....
    Just ask John.

  36. NIMBY all the way!! All too predictable.

  37. From the Sun Journal,,

    The Western Maine Homeless Outreach board of directors, of which Bracy is president, has taken Moore up on his gesture. The two sides will be meeting this week to discuss taking the plan for a family shelter in a new direction.

    “Although we are sorry to have spent our resources pursuing the Holman House, we are so pleased with the great support that Farmington has shown to fight homelessness,” Bracy said. “We have gained support for our mission, and we now have more key people to help us look at fundraising, and also for a permanent location that we will own.”



    hope you naysayers are done with your misdirected agenda laden hissy fit.

  38. West West...That was the argument made - it should have never been a planning board issue. It needs to go to the zoning board and then to the selectmen.

    Also, there are NO zoning ordinances for a homeless shelter, another argument that was made by the same person. So, it's not that the location isn't zoned for a homeless shelter. It can't be zoned for a homeless shelter if no ordinance TECHNICALLY exists for a "homeless shelter".

    Old South has a building they wanted to use for good purpose. They were just about to start reaching out to local non-profits to see if any were in need of space. The shelter then came and said they needed a place to move. So, Old South says, "Well, we have this building that is an actual home"...for people who need a temporary home. And that set this into motion. Man, we, as a people, love reading things out of context.

    Also, let's not bash the Moore/Bjorn household. I'm a supporter of this move, but I will not hold this outcome against John and Jen. In my opinion, NO ONE at that meeting cared what their attorney said. They seemed to find him more annoying than anything else. The board seemed more interested in hearing from the community first. I suppose some weight was probably given to John's personal speech. However, there were plenty of other people speaking out against this move. John and Jen just hired an attorney. That's the only difference - an attorney, that, again, I think most found annoying.

    In this whole process, some really terrible, degrading things have been said about our homeless population. That alone should bother us all. We are all one bad accident, diagnosis, piled up medical bills, or lost job away from being in need. It's so easy to categorize people or stereo-type people or whip out our handy-dandy statistics notebook because we know we will never be one of "those" people...until one day life hands a steaming pile of crap and there we are.

  39. Taxed Enough, They have these awesome things called smart phones now, they have really cool features like the ability to get on the internet ,use voice commands to open websites, auto read those websites and they even do voice to text, so all I have to do is tell my phone what to type and it does it. So even though I may not be home and tied to my desktop, I can be traveling for work and still post on the Bulldog.

    Toot Toot, KWUGH asked what I had done to help poor people, the need to enlighten this person was warranted.

  40. 150,000 in renovations and still be a rental property? The church would still own it with all the upgrades? Just who is actually paying for all the upgrades?

  41. As Mr Bracy said,,
    Now there after more resources working together for a better solution. A Good Outcome Indeed.

    The only downside is that Old South might have to pay to fix their building themselves now. It needs a lot of $$_out into it.

  42. Hrtlss Bstrd- Just a personal reaction to your negative comment about San Francisco and it's citizens efforts to address the very serious homeless issue there- My son works for an incredible private non-profit organization called Tipping Point Community that is solely dedicated to the long range goal of eliminating homelessness in their great city. A lofty goal for sure but every day their staff, board members and volunteers are making an effective difference in the lives of their homeless residents! I strongly believe that they are as effective as they are because they coordinate with and directly fund other non-profit agencies that have proven records of comprehensive (Critically important) service delivery programs that have positively impacted the long term independence of homeless residents. People working together, not reinventing the wheel and putting their money where their mouths are! Speaking of money- it is important to note that 100% of funds raised by Tipping Point goes directly to funding programs. Their board of directors pays ALL operating costs! Yes, it is SF and some folks have deep pockets but some have chosen to get involved to do whatever they can to address this issue. Please check out their website and as you said it is better to not judge quickly. San Francisco has had a lot of negative publicity about their homeless "problem", however there are many caring, concerned people there working very hard on this issue!