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Portland breaks ground for new Homeless Services Center in Riverton neighborhood

The new 208-bed facility at 654 Riverside St. will include wraparound services like meals, workforce training and mental health services.

PORTLAND, Maine — After years of debate, the City of Portland has broken ground on a new Homeless Services Center near the Westbrook city line.

"I’m pleased to be marking the milestone of beginning construction on this new facility as it means we will soon be able to serve clients in a more humane way that better meets their needs, thus working toward the goal of reducing the overall need for emergency shelter services," Portland Mayor Kate Snyder said. 

The new Homeless Services Center will be built at 654 Riverside St. in the Riverton neighborhood. The center will have 208-beds with wraparound services to help those experiencing homeless get back on their feet.

The facility will replace Portland's current adult shelter on Oxford Street, which can house 154 people at maximum capacity, but has been reduced during the pandemic. Portland leases that building.

Groups that support those experiencing homeless like Preble Street, Amistad, The Opportunity Alliance, and Greater Portland Health will work at the facility as community partners, according to city staff. The new facility will offer meals, a health clinic, day space, workforce training, housing counseling services, and mental health and substance use services.

Snyder said the new shelter will allow people to access services without leaving the building.

"Here, we're actually bringing the services to the people," she said. 


It's been a years-long process for the city to begin construction on the project. 

The city council voted 5-4 in 2019 in favor of the Riverside Street location. The project was then delayed by the pandemic.

In June 2021, the city chose Developers Collaborative to build the center. 

The project has faced public criticism. Advocates argued that the facility is too far from the downtown area, where many people who are homeless find services.

It's also faced criticism about its size. A 2021 referendum question asking Portland voters whether to limit the capacity of shelters in the city was defeated, allowing Portland to move forward more easily with their design. 

"While I am glad that we will have a new way in which to serve our most vulnerable people, it is not lost on me that the homelessness crisis is complex, multifaceted, and dynamic," Snyder said. 

Developers say the new facility will take roughly one year to complete and will cost up to $25 million. 

Portland paid $6.5 million up front for the project and the remaining amount will be financed through a 25-year lease, officials said. The City Council approved putting $3.5 million in city-allocated American Rescue Plan Act toward the down payment. The remaining $3 million was awarded to by Cumberland County’s ARPA allocation.

Snyder urged other cities and towns to help support those experiencing homelessness. 

"Obviously we're here today talking about a new 208-bed facility, but every single town and city in the state of Maine is obligated to provide emergency shelter as a result of our state's general assistance law," Snyder said. "Want me to say that again, because I will. I think it's really really important for every town and city to recognize that this is what Portland is doing, and every town and city has the same obligation."

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