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Housing First Project in Sanford Gets Boost from York County

Diane SMall

Diane Small, Executive Director of Sanford Housing Authority

Photo: Tammy Wells

By Tammy Wells, York County media specialist

A recent allocation by York County Commissioners of $440,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds will help Sanford Housing Authority build 30 apartment units in Sanford with 24/7 supports, including case management and nearby recovery services.

The project uses the Housing First model, which aims to reduce homelessness.

The APRA award by York County Commissioners would be used for land acquisition. Low-income tax credits through Maine Housing would be used for construction, SHA director Diane Small said.

No site for the project has yet been determined, and completion will likely take about two years, Small said.

The Housing First model, simply put, is based on a hierarchy of needs, said Small. People must have basic necessities, like a safe place to live, before being able to achieve quality of life or pursue personal goals.

“It’s not housing only. Supportive services are part of the Housing First model,” she said.

The building would be made up of efficiency or one-bedroom apartments, depending on funding levels.

People eligible for the units must have experienced homelessness. They may be winding down a recovery program or getting themselves in a position to start. They could be folks who have been released from jail and are facing homelessness because they may not pass a background check. They may have been sleeping in a tent, or in a vehicle. They may have addictions or chronic mental illness or not.

“Many will come from recovery,” said Small. “Others may qualify for housing first, undergo treatment, and return.”

The units would be considered permanent, not transitional housing. Supports are projected to include case management and access to medical and behavioral care, funded through the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Small noted.

Units will have their own kitchens, but there will be plans for a community kitchen in the building, where folks can take classes in meal preparation, nutrition and more.

The units would be available to people from all corners of the county and eligible folks will be drawn from the Homeless Management Information System. Small said it is important for people in that circumstance to do a housing assessment. SHA’s housing navigators have been working to do the assessments with folks, visiting warming centers and other locales.

Small has been talking to agencies like York County Community Action and Nasson Health’s medical department, York County Shelter Programs, and York County government, which is expected to break ground relatively soon on a new York County Recovery Center, a residential program in Alfred, to treat those with substance use disorder.

“It’s a pretty good project,” said York County Commission Chair Richard Dutremble. “It will help some people coming out of the rehabilitation center.”

Small said county, city and state governments have been working together on the project. “It’s a great partnership,” she said.

The statewide Housing First model was included in the state budget that was signed by Gov. Janet Mills in early July 2023, acting on her State of the State promise made early that year.

“Under this legislation, Maine would provide permanent supportive housing for hundreds of Maine’s citizens, providing communities across Maine with a desperately needed resource to address chronic homelessness and reduce health care and public safety costs,” said Mills, as she invited the Legislature to pass the measure which they did.

Some Housing First properties already exist; a partnership between Avesta Housing and Preble Street in Portland includes three such properties: Huston Commons, Florence House and Logan Place.

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