The City of Portland joined today with its partners and community members to break ground on the new Homeless Services Center (HSC) located at 654 Riverside Street. The HSC will provide 208-beds in a modern facility that will transform the way in which the City and its partners provide critical services to those experiencing homelessness. The new site will replace the City’s current emergency shelter at Oxford Street, which the City leases, and was not designed to serve in this capacity as it can only serve clients with mats on the floor. The project is the result of a public private partnership. Developers Collaborative is constructing the facility and will lease it back to the City to operate.
Guests at the ceremony included Mayor Kate Snyder; Interim City Manager Danielle West; Kevin Bunker, Principal, Developers Collaborative; Steve DeCastro, President & CEO, Gorham Savings Bank; Richard Brescia, Executive Vice President, Cianbro; as well as service provider partners, City staff, and community members.
“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,” said Mayor Kate Snyder. “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. We know that piecemeal, siloed responses by individual communities does not work. We are at a critical juncture in which real, workable, systemic solutions are needed. I want to thank City staff and all of our community partners for the work they do and for their commitment in helping us come up with long-term solutions.”
The City is partnering with several local service providers to provide critical wrap-around services on-site at the new HSC as well as access to private and public transportation to other key services. These service partners include: Preble Street, Amistad, The Opportunity Alliance, and Greater Portland Health, as well as others. The new facility will provide a host of comprehensive services to ensure that clients get what they need to get back on their feet. This includes meals, a full health clinic, adequate day space, workforce training, housing counseling services, mental health and substance use services.
“I’m thankful that we’re at the point of breaking ground on this new facility so that very soon we can better serve those who need it most,” said Interim City Manager Danielle West. “For too long we have done our best to provide services in a building that was not suited for this use. I’m proud of the work our staff does each and every day to meet the needs of our clients in that current building, and I’m thankful to the many staff who helped provide recommendations to the Council on a new facility and have worked on and provided guidance throughout the process once a site was chosen. I’d also like to thank the City Council and Cumberland County for supporting this project with ARPA funds. I look forward to this new facility more adequately meeting the needs of those experiencing homelessness.”
The new building’s design takes into account that many people seeking shelter and services have likely experienced significant trauma in their lives and need an environment that mitigates trauma-response behavior and promotes feelings of security, dignity, and safety. The large site allows for opportunities to create purposeful connections to nature and bring indoor and outdoor spaces together. Inside the building, there will be clear sightlines, high ceilings with natural light, minimal barriers, space that is easy to navigate and accessible, as well as designated areas that provide a sense of privacy.
The building’s entrance illustrates the intent of the building to be immediately welcoming with clear entrance points for both the Service Center and the onsite health clinic. A large covered porch area provides immediate shelter with places to sit and presents a simple visual element that can be recognized from a distance as one progresses from the street to the front door. There will be clear connections to the day room/cafeteria, sleeping quarters, health clinic, social services, laundry, lockers, etc.
The new facility is expected to take 12 months to complete and cost up to $25 million to construct. The City paid $6.5 million up front and the remaining amount will be financed via a 25-year lease. The City Council approved using $3.5 million in City allocated ARPA funds to help cover the upfront payment. The remaining $3M was awarded to the City from Cumberland County’s ARPA allocation.
The HSC was approved by the City Council on June 17, 2019, calling for the creation of a modern homeless services center with emergency shelter access and complete wrap-around services to be located at 654 Riverside Street on vacant, City-owned property. City staff issued an RFP in February 2021 soliciting proposals from private developers to build and then lease the new facility for the City to operate. The City Council selected Developers Collaborative in June 2021.