Franklin Countys First News

Homeless shelter seeking new home on Main Street

A panel of WMHO staff and board members answered questions from local business owners Wednesday morning.

FARMINGTON - After operating for the last four years in the basement of the Living Waters Assembly of God church on Route 2, Western Maine Homeless Outreach will settle into new digs at the Holman House on Main Street this fall.

Currently the shelter offers 16 beds, primarily serving families, elderly and veterans, however there is almost always a waiting list according to shelter coordinator Aly Livernois. In addition to a need for more space, guests who stay at the shelter are asked to leave between the hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. which often forces them to walk the busy road into town. The shelter does offer daytime hours during the winter months, but a move into town would make for a safer journey and easier access to local resources.

"None of us feel good about making them leave during the day, especially when they have young children," case manager Diane Alexander said.

Alexander sat on a panel of six Wednesday morning to share information, clear misconceptions and field questions from local business owners. While the move has brought some controversy from local residents, the crowd was generally supportive of the idea- reflecting the warm reception of the Holman House owner- Old South First Congregational Church.

"We heard they needed space, and we had the space," Old South moderator Chris Magri said. "This project demonstrates that Farmington is not just a town, it's a community. It's a community where we have each other's backs. Where we do not allow labels such as 'homeless.' I'm really proud Old South has the opportunity to take this project to the next level."

The Holman House is currently undergoing an assessment process to bring the building up to code- the biggest need being a sprinkler system. Magri said based on preliminary meetings, the required renovations could cost up to $120,000. The two organizations are planning to fund the needs for now, with hopes that state funding could offer reimbursement down the road.

Although a secure number hasn't been reached yet, WMHO board president Steve Bracy said they are hopeful of doubling the number of beds offered. Priority would still be given to families, with the elderly and veterans coming next on the list. If space is available, beds are offered to single adults.

"It's quite a process for people to be taken in there," Chief of Police Jack Peck said.

Peck also serves on the WMHO board and sat on the Wednesday morning panel. He reported to the audience that in the four years since the shelter opened, officers had only been called 17 times, primarily for minor incidences. Business managers both from Farmington Ford and Walmart reported no issues in the four years of being neighbors.

Guests who stay at the shelter have to undergo an extensive background check, including the sex offender registry. The shelter is a "dry" one, meaning not only are drugs and alcohol prohibited from the premise, but guests are not allowed to enter if intoxicated. All medications are locked up and supervised, and the building will include security cameras as it does now, Peck reported.

"Our priority is to make sure individuals are a good fit for the shelter. They have to be safe around kids of all ages and there is absolutely no tolerance of violence. If they are not a good fit, we try to find them a different shelter that is more appropriate," Alexander said.

She went on to say that all guests do their part in communal living at the shelter, which includes seeking employment if applicable. The primary goal of the shelter is to help prepare their guests for a stable living situation upon departure. Similarly, the shelter is not just a "drop in" location. Guests stay for a minimum of two months, during which shelter staff works with local landlords to find permanent housing. Staff members also conduct classes such as how to be a good renter.

WMHO is the only shelter in Franklin County, with the next closest option being Waterville or Skowhegan. Livernois said very few referrals are taken from outside Franklin County, and guests almost always have a tie to Western Maine that makes it home.

"The homeless live among us. They are out there. The people you walk by everyday on the street could be homeless. You just never know," Alexander said.

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43 Responses »

  1. Why are their no pictures to show on any thing on bulldog

  2. Such a good thing that you are doing.

  3. Excellent! They'll be within walking distance of so many more things -- libraries, churches, shops, parks ...

  4. Does this shelter accept donations of new clothing?? I have 2 large bags of new clothing that I would like to donate to a shelter..

  5. So glad there is a place for people in need and that more will be helped. When I read the phrase “Where we do not allow labels such as homeless,” I thought perhaps, the name should be changed to ‘Temporary Shelter’ or just ‘Farmington Shelter’. Any thoughts on this?

  6. If nothing else, it would make the stretch of road from Wal-Mart to Hannaford safer.

  7. Local resources = bars.

  8. Fast Eddie,, I hear ya about the bars but,,,,

    I'm as skeptical as anyone about people on the dole..
    It really pissed me if that I feel this way.
    I wouldn't have these feelings if not for all the obvious welfare cheaters that simply take take take and then take more without lifting a finger to help themselves.
    Let's be honest here,,,, it's rampant.
    The outgoing Gov dared to mention it and was tarred and feathered by the Maine "Swamp Creatures" in Augusta.
    So,, I hear ya.

    But,,, I (and most people) hate to turn my back on a good person who has had bad things happen to them. Know anyone living paycheck to paycheck? Wouldn't take much and these folks could find themselves on the outside...
    We need to help the homeless.

    So,,, if you know of a welfare system cheat.... Report them.
    Help us all out.

  9. your very right fast eddie, its going to be turmoil downtown Farmington, Most are in the shelter is to get bumped up faster on the section 8 list and I can tell you worst reasons but we will start there

  10. Give the shelter TWO YEARS. If after TWO YEARS, we find that more incidents happen in town, the break-ins increase, the place has numerous phone calls for police or first aid assistance (like drug over-doses), then shut it down. And I personally don't want to drive by and see some one sitting on the porch when the lawn needs to be mowed, raked or other outdoor work needs to be done, or the Shelter is paying a willing worker or lawn care profession to do those jobs. If people can live for free, then can do something to help around the house. Don't talk about insurance. Make sure your insurance includes liability for people living there.

    I also suspect the Church isn't just doing this "for the poor people". I suspect it's working on getting some grants to help pay for the house and the church - just to heat and light the places. The church has lost a lot of loyal parishioners to age/death, and some are totally disgust the way they are being pushed out by the "new" people who have no history with the church. I understand the vote was 10 against and 36 for opening a shelter.

  11. Oh the stereotypes about homeless folks...maybe fast eddies and grizzs in the community should get to know some of the folks who need shelter, by volunteering maybe? Did you read the article? It clearly states no alcohol is allowed on premises, and no one who is intoxicated is allowed to enter. I was taught not to judge others unless I have walked a couple miles in their shoes.

  12. dear long time mainer I did volunteer to help and how do you think I know this cause it was told by the young homeless ladies there further more its not called being judgemental its called being a realist not really into liberal antics

  13. Somewhere in a dark musty cellar in the area there is a group of led by a low priestess probably named Nancy doing a reverse om chant to the effect "don't make it work, don't make it work. don't make it work...................."

    Apologies to some of my peers (still living) as to we might have dealt with similar matters in the old daze

  14. Good thing we have so many caring people here in the comment section to judge and police the poor who find themselves in such unfortunate situations. How about that county budget? Cutting all county funding to essential public services but still increasing this years budget by over 300K? Seems a bit self serving to not help solve the problems but then feel so entitled to complain.

  15. Been going to Living Waters for a while now and have seen quite a few of the people using the shelter.
    None of the ones I have met or interacted with appear to be riding the gravy train or are there for the " freebies ".
    This is a much needed service in the area. I can't believe people are so negative about it.

  16. To those worried about "turmoil" I would reiterate two points made in the article: the managers of the shelter's next-door neighbors (Farmington Ford and Walmart) made it clear that the shelter hasn't been a problem for them since its 2013 inception; and our police chief reported that the shelter hasn't been a problem for law enforcement , then described the numerous security measures taken with all guests (background checks, searches for drugs/weapons/alcohol every time guests reenter the shelter, sobriety checks, security cameras, etc.).

    To these points we can add that shelter guests are already visiting downtown during the day, and downtown appears to be doing just fine. Similarly, kids in homeless families attend local schools without doing those schools any harm -- which of course is no surprise, given that some of these kids were attending those same schools before becoming homeless.

    In short, four and a half years of operation have provided a wealth of hard evidence that this family homeless shelter hasn't produced any crime wave, any drug spree, any turmoil; and there's no reason whatsoever to imagine that this benign situation will suddenly change if the shelter relocates. Folks, these are just ordinary families that have hit a rough patch. I suppose fears are human, but facts are far more useful than fears.

    Finally, since the vote at Old South was brought up, the numbers were 43-11 if anyone cares. The 43 most certainly included some long-time Farmingtonians who care deeply about our church, our town, and the town's history; fortunately, that's not incompatible with caring deeply about our fellow human beings.

  17. I should add my thanks to the commenter who wondered what the building should be called once it houses the family shelter. We've already had a brief discussion of this, for example it could simply be called Holman House, similarly to how some other shelters in the state are named. But we're a long way from a decision.

  18. The guests at the shelter are required to help with the daily upkeep of the shelter itself. Nor are they allowed to be a public nuisance. Plus they are required to seek employment if applicable. If the "ícommunity" were to assist with more funding resources to provide more staffing during the day, the guests wouldn't need to leave from 8 am to 4 pm rain or shine on a daily basis. The new Shelter Manager is doing a great job with what they have to work with. I think it's a huge blessing for them to move into town. Guests without transportation are walking into town. As well as to the food bank in Fairbanks.
    I hope some of the nay sayers take some time to tour the current shelter to see how small it is. As well as learn first hand some of the rules and policies that are in place.

  19. Well done, Old South, well done Farmington, well done WMHO.

    Nancy P. I know you love Farmington and you are smart enough to come up with some suggestions about how to help those children, Veterans, families, elderly who are homeless.
    The complaining is a nuisance and not at all helpful. Perhaps, let the complaining and negativity go for a bit and brainstorm solutions.

    Well said as always, Chris Magri.

  20. Wondering if this place accepts donations of clothing and blankets? We have had a loss in the family and have several items that are usable and great condition we would hate to throw away. Is anyone aware of location donation outlets?

  21. I say we take all the good folks that think homeless shelters bring good business to any town we could move them by your own house and we will see how opinions change

  22. I am also wondering about donating some clothing and household items.

  23. well you good residents of Farmington the homeless shelter has been in functioning order for years why didn't you help than just saying

  24. As I read this story yesterday I knew it would only be matter of time before the same old gang that hates the downtrodden would chime in. I even got a laugh about the streets having fewer pedestrians and expected the comments about the bars. You guys are true to yourselves and fired away with the same old cynical comments toward the downtrodden
    Sure, there is always fraud. It is easy to turn ugly against the person with 12 tattoos who buys their cheap Natural Light cans of beer and then uses their EBT card for snacks instead of healthy food. Yep, it irks me that they are not using the card to improve themselves, but who am I to judge?.
    When WalMArt gets a huge tax cut and then starts to lay off workers each week no one seems outraged,
    In both situations above, the person or company followed the rules but who hurt society the most and took advantage of loopholes the most?

    Homeless people need help and we have enough resources to help so well done by those who took this initiative. To those that have such vitriol for thee downtrodden, I really feel sorry for you and hope that when you need help, it is actually available.

  25. As someone who has stayed in this shelter with my family I can tell you the people are heavily screened and not a bunch of drunks. My families rental home was condemed in December and after our third run in with scammers and sleeping on a relatives floor the shelter was our saving grace!!! The work that we put in to find a home was required of everyone. Work search logs landlord lists to contact housing search logs and I'm sure there was more. The staff was always kind and Diane was amazing!! My husband had a job prior to the shelter but despite having money we simply could not find any place to rent. they put us in contact with REAL landlords and in a short amount of time we were in a beautiful home and have continued to Excell . We have been out of the shelter over two years now and I will never forget the kindness we receive from everyone there! They are hard working dedicated individuals and I have seen the success this shelter has had and i watched as every person who was there with us found home and jobs! I will forever hold a special place in my heart for all of them! For those who are concerned...drunks and druggies are sent away. there is a process to enter and an agreement made. If you don't follow the rules you are out! Franklin county if a VERY hard area to find a home in. Without the shelter I don't know where my family would be now! But because of them we are doing amazing! There will always be hooligans trying to ruin it for everyone but this staff can handle it!! They are simply amazing!! Thank you ALL !!

  26. Donations of blankets and household goods are always accepted. At this time we do not have the storage space for clothing donations. Please call the shelter at 491-4100 to set up a time for drop off's or for any questions you may have.

  27. To all the people who are against the shelter moving into town... I'm sorry you are so ignorant, but how can you be so cruel? What if this was your son or daughter that just lost their job? What if YOU found yourself without an income? Shame on you, haters! Lets help each other

  28. Lona, I agree, but I've learned there are two types of people. Some are judgmental, quick to criticize those different than themselves, believe they know better than others how things should be, and refuse to have empathy for others. Others are understanding, try to have empathy with people in situations different than their own, avoiding judging those they do not know well, and recognize life has a variety of perspectives and situations. The former tend not to be happy in life - they feel like victims, they're angry things are being done wrong, and they resent those who have it better than them. The latter learn that life is beautiful when one lives according to kindness, empathy and understanding, and don't measure themselves up against others.

    Those who are cruel to others are actually being cruel to themselves at the same time. Those who show love, learn that love comes back to them. It's amazingly simple, but so many people just don't get it.

  29. That judgement thingy can really gettcha.

  30. I did not see many 'ignorant & cruel' or awful comments.... I do say it is time for the Nancies and Scotts and others to put their money and actions where their mouth is. Just go and help with money or volunteer and prove your worth..and stop complanining about others.. Get on the bus... and make it work..

  31. Nicely said-and signed,Scott.

  32. If this happens I feel bad for the neighbors, the downtown businesses, and Farmington’s general assistance budget. They are all going to lose. Main Street is a bad location.

  33. Like the idea of "Holman House" and establishing a place downtown for the homeless where they can access resources and feel a part of the community. Thanks to everyone making this happen!

  34. It’s a bad idea all around.

  35. A gal CLOSE to the Holman family spoke to me and said something that made total sense. Instead of destroying that wonderful, stately home of Main Street, why doesn't the church SELL it and buy something else or build something else other than using Main Street. That would put it back on the tax rolls.

  36. I thought you were moving away never to be heard from again Nancy? So why would the homeless shelter location bother you?

  37. The bluster of the naysayers is nothing new.
    Don't judge them because of their short comings.
    Pray for them.

    Except for the Grace of God,, it could be them.
    Someday it might be.

    It's simple, closer the pie hole.

  38. A czech of mine for $20 in in the mail as of yesterday to the Old South Church for use at the Holman House

    If someone with a real name can publically (HERE!) commit to $20, I'll match it with another $20, if its Nancy my czech will be $30 Chris M can confirm

  39. Thank you Chuck, that's very kind!

    It's of course heartening to read so many supportive comments, but I get it that for some people it's concerns that immediately pop to mind. Not all homeless shelters have the same mission and are run in the same way, so as the project proceeds we'll try to keep providing valid information on this particular shelter to demonstrate that it's doing a fine job for its guests while not causing any problems for its neighbors.

    Ultimately, though, experience will be the deciding factor. If the shelter relocates, downtown life will proceed exactly as before; that historic Main St. building will still look the same on the outside (and largely the same on the inside, but more fire-resistant); no one's business or quality of life will suffer; and it will be clear that we needn't choose between being helpful and being safe.

  40. Chris, I did not know landlords could always control and predict how their tenants are always going to act. If I was you I would not give any guarantees. Tenants don’t always do as they say. Seeing how this move means double the beds that would imply double the people. Now there is going to be all these people in the downtown, not spread out between Walmart and that end of town. What happens when there is vacancies and those state subsidies are needed to make the shelter run. I would almost guarantee the shelter will fill the beds by bringing folks from outside the county. This will affect the downtown and the people living there.

  41. "What happens when there is vacancies and those state subsidies are needed to make the shelter run. I would almost guarantee the shelter will fill the beds by bringing folks from outside the county"

    Townie You are starting act a bit "presidential" Repeating the foregoing a couple more times and it will morph into a real concern

  42. Hi concerned citizens, your feelings are appreciated, truthfully. (The support of others is also, of course, appreciated). Sorry, I'm a little late to this party. We knew that not everyone would be supportive, but I'm not going to call any of you "judgmental". For one, I don't know you well-enough to label you as anything. You obviously have some fears for your community and anytime we are concerned about our community's well-being, that's a good thing, right? I am certain there are many people taking advantage of our government's subsidies, etc. It happens. Unfortunately, these are the stories we hear about the most - those "evil doers" who take advantage of our tax dollars paid via our hard earned money. These stories grab our attention on the news and ignite our anger, so they are what we hear about most or maybe what we remember the most.

    Yet, this isn't the always the case. Some people actually need a little help. As far as predicting the tenants' behavior, you are correct. No one can predict that - just like I can't predict whether or not in 5 years I will be homeless and needing assistance because I lost my job and couldn't find a well-paying job to support my family. I know it seems so bizarre to think that in rural Maine well-paying jobs with benefits are hard to come by, but just imagine...if you can. However, using the past experience of the shelter, we can estimate that the shelter will be safe and not suddenly turn downtown Farmington into an apocalyptic scene of crime and shenanigans.

    I also have to defend my beloved church a little. I'm sorry, Nancy, to call you out specifically. I'm sure you are a wonderful person, I don't know you, but you took to a public comment thread to throw out all these things about my church and do not appear to be fully informed....unless I missed you at all of our church meetings, in which case, I apologize. I mean, I'll probably get in trouble for putting all of our church business out here, but I feel people should have the whole story. Regarding selling the house as suggested by someone CLOSE to the Holman family, please come to Old South and suggest that (sarcasm). Please. That has been suggested and voted on as well. Believe me, that has been thoroughly discussed. Actually many of the long-term members that you suggested we dismiss and push out would give you the biggest fight about selling it. So, essentially by selling the house, as you suggested, we would be doing exactly what you are accusing us of - pushing them out. I don't understand. We voted to keep the house to use it as a mission in our community and we have been doing that. Our youth distribute coats, etc. for free during winter months. Annie's Beanpole still provides free medical equipment to be used by people from all over the state. None of that will change. You're right, this is a beautiful historic home. One we want to share with our community. Also, no, the church is not going to apply for grants to pay bills. I don't even think we could do that. As Treasurer, I can assure you this was not seen as some kind of bankroll for the church. Will we collect rent from the shelter? Yes, and that will be used to maintain the building - i.e. maintenance and repairs. It has to be. We cannot use it for any expenses at the church, just to be transparent. It will also be based on what they can afford. Also, in regards to that, I have to kindly ask that you please stop assuming the church is so selfish. The "money hungry" church accusations are old and tired. There were definitely concerns raised in our discussions and we took each one seriously. There were also a lot of members very much on board and excited about this opportunity. Funny how church congregations are people, too, and aren't mindless subjects. Also, we value all of our members and their feelings - old and new. We try to make that known at all meetings. I love our older members. They are wise and sweet and kind and loving and accepting. Our effort is always to try to move forward together. I just really resent that you took to this comment thread to speak so negatively about a group of people I know and love dearly. My church is amazing. All of them are amazing. I don't care if I disagree with some of them on an issue or not. They are all wonderful people with valued opinions.

    If you are skeptical, nothing I'm writing will probably matter because in today's world, for some reason we are so set on believing we are correct and everyone else that doesn't think our way is wrong and stupid. I believe we have our fears because we have been shown reason/taught to have those fears somewhere in our life. I'm just trying to say that maybe we can try to look past our fears and realize that there are two sides to everything. There will always be people who will take advantage of generosity and always those that will be forever grateful for it.

  43. Very nicely written and very informative,Amanda. I wonder if this same cadre here that complains and criticizes everything ever lifts a finger to help anyone or anything or for that matter has ever even seen the inside of a church? I'll bet they are the first ones to identify themselves as "Christians". They get all their info and opinions from Fox news whose motto is," Millionaires telling the middle class that everything is the fault of the poor".