Western Maine Community Action (WMCA) Executive Director Jim Trundy is pleased to announce that Maine Housing has awarded the agency nearly $7 million in grants from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to create affordable housing and shelter space in Franklin County. Maine Housing indicated that there were only three of these awards state-wide that were selected by a rigorous scoring system.

WMCA Family and Health Service Director Kobi Perry, who has been the lead on this affordable housing endeavor and stated, “This project will support those experiencing homelessness, at risk of homelessness, or experiencing housing instability by expanding affordable housing units and emergency shelter services in Franklin County at a time when the families we work with are unable to acquire any apartment at any price point.”

Grants were also awarded to a community action agency in Bangor and a pair of non-profit organizations working on a development to serve those experiencing homelessness in Kittery.
Overall, Maine Housing awarded just over $13.2 million in federal aid for three developments that are aimed at helping individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Maine.
The developments in Kittery, Farmington and Bangor will create 74 new units of supportive housing, as well as and new non-congregate shelter space in Farmington.
The funding for the developments comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, which allocated $13.3 million to Maine from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of the law passed in 2021.
“The agencies and organizations receiving these funds put forward the best and most innovative proposals that will help make sure these valuable federal resources are used as they are intended to help shelter and support vulnerable Maine residents,” said Maine Housing Director Daniel Brennan. “We all know that putting a stable roof over people’s heads is a key step to all other wellbeing.”

WMCA Housing Director Bill Crandall had worked closely to continue the homelessness mission of the now defunct Western Maine Homeless Outreach (WMHO). WMHO was an organization that had an active local volunteer Board and were engaged in helping people and changing lives over the past decade by supporting their guests during their darkest hours to increase their skill set for greater housing independence and self-sufficiency.

Crandall indicated, “WMHO clearly demonstrated to our community the need for temporary, transitional, and sustained affordable housing for the greater Franklin County area.” WMCA Family and Health Services has continued the agency promise to WHMO in working with those experiencing homelessness and to connect them to other agency programs and assist them in locating affordable rental units for those who are unsheltered, experiencing homelessness, and facing housing instability.

Currently, WMCA supports families by providing Homeless Services, Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA), Family Coaching, Housing Stability Services, Supplemental Food and Nutrition to Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LiHEAP), Healthcare Navigation, housing and heating system repair, and weatherization services. WMCA has served over 190 individuals with housing stability services since the program started in 2021 and are currently assisting 74 under this program. The ERA program has housed over 710 rental households in Franklin County since the pandemic started and the agency is currently serving over 90 people with homelessness services.

The award from Maine Housing will provide WMCA the means to acquire properties located within walking/biking distance to services and employment opportunities that many community members need. The properties are on Western Maine Transportation’s Green Line, which makes four, daily, roundtrips between Franklin County and Lewiston/Auburn. Once in Lewiston/Auburn, there are public transportation services that travel to Portland and beyond. This bus transportation system will also give residents the ability to travel to other needed services that are not within walking distance. There are many employment opportunities in the Franklin County area that are in need of a work force, such as Franklin Community Health Network, University of Maine at Farmington, retailers, and many local businesses. The WMCA affordable housing and homeless plan includes renovations by a general contractor that will produce 31 various sized affordable apartments and three shelter bedrooms with green space and laundry facilities. The project timeline has not yet been determined but WMCA is in hopes of housing people before the fall of 2023.

The Maine State Housing Authority (MaineHousing) is an independent authority created by the Maine State Legislature in 1969 to address problems of unsafe, unsuitable, overcrowded, and unaffordable housing. At its core, the agency couples the efficiencies of the private financial markets with public purpose goals to provide affordable home ownership and rental housing opportunities for Maine people.

WMCA has over 55 years of helping people and changing lives. WMCA’s work is complemented by our many local partnerships that increases our community impact. WMCA’s past affordable housing work has included partnering with Mission at the East Wood (MATE), 82 High Street, Foster Tech Construction Program, Hammond Lumber, Mathews Brothers Windows, Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, United Way of the Tri-Valley Area, and many other community partners and multiple funders. WMCA has relationships with several private foundations directly involved in western Maine community development as well. WMCA will continue to refer homeless individuals and families when needed to current partners such as Rumford Group Homes, the Rural Community Action Ministry (RCAM), the Trinity Shelter in Skowhegan, Solon’s New Hope Shelter, United Methodist Economic Ministry (UMEM), and St. Marten De Pores in Auburn. For more information about this exciting project or to contribute to further programming for the Homeless, please contact Kobi Perry at WMCA at 207-860-4492 or email info@wmca.org.