Lead paint safety program working in Maine, research shows

Maine’s rigorous new testing standards for lead poisoning in children has resulted in additional inspections of dwellings for lead paint, and those inspections have led to more lead hazards being discovered and removed, according to recently published research.

In 2015, Maine approved a law that reduced the blood test threshold that triggers the household inspections from 15 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to 5 micrograms. The new standard aligns with recommendations by federal health agencies.

Currently, all children who receive Medicaid are tested for lead exposure. A bill pending in the Legislature would require lead testing for all 1- and 2-year-old children in Maine. The bill – backed by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention – was approved by the Health and Human Services Committee and is now headed to the House and Senate floor.

Portland Press Herald

Efforts by Portland, state navigate path out of chronic homelessness

Steve Bowie thinks back to the two years he spent on Portland’s streets and remembers the feeling of hopelessness.

For 28 months, he battled with a longtime addiction to alcohol and spent nights on floor mats at the city-run Oxford Street Shelter or at Milestone Recovery, a smaller shelter for people with substance use disorder.

Then, in 2017, Bowie was one of 30 homeless people selected to live in an unusual new supported housing facility in Portland called Huston Commons. Based on a philosophy known as housing first, Huston Commons had a collection of small, furnished apartments with 24-hour staff support and a community kitchen and laundry.

Portland Press Herald

What is ‘housing first’?

Housing first is a philosophy that first emerged in the 1990s and has taken hold as a cost-effective way to reduce homelessness.

In a more traditional approach, a homeless person would be given space in an overnight shelter while trying to find work or get sober or healthy enough to secure housing. But with housing first, people are given a safe, stable place to live and offered support, whether its for substance use disorder, mental illness, physical health or employment training.

“We really feel housing is itself therapeutic,” said Hillary Colcord, the director of Huston Commons, a housing-first facility in Portland.

Portland Press Herald

First Fox School resident says former school still has life

PARIS — For Carol Fanjoy, every room, hallway, nook and cranny of the newly renovated Fox School holds a memory. And those memories can be overwhelming.

“The first day I got in, when I started the application process, the plumber let me in. I saw the front staircase, and I sat down … I actually had tears in my eyes,” said Fanjoy.

Fanjoy, 56,  one of the first residents at the newly opened housing unit on Market Square, worked at the school as a head custodian for a decade.

“Working as a custodian for 10 years in this building were the happiest years of my entire career. There was an awesome staff of teachers and support staff. We were Kindergarten to third grade, so we had the babies, and they were so good,” said Fanjoy.

Sun Journal

MEREDA Event – Everyone Needs an Affordable Home: Building on Housing Solutions That Work

Ever since I was a state rep and worked repeatedly on senior housing bonds, I’ve been interested in the issue of the lack of affordable housing in Maine. Following up on that interest, I attended and recorded a conference put on by the Maine Real Estate and Development Association on affordable housing. It was a very well done talk and I’m publishing it here, in hopes that you’ll enjoy it. It’s kind of a dry topic but it’s very meaningful. It features Greg Payne of Avesta and the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition; Jess Maurer of the Maine Council on Aging, and Dana Totman, CEO of Avesta Housing.

The Grow Maine Show

Affordable, self-heating homes of the future, inspired by the past

Rubbing their hands and breathing dragon smoke into the cold air, residents rush inside the bright green building. The temperature outside has barely hit double digits, so the warm lobby inside Bayside Anchor, a low-income apartment building in Portland, is a happy reprieve.

The lobby is also an architectural feat, as Bayside Anchor has no centralized heating system. It is a certified “passive house,” which means the building has airtight insulation and thick windows to keep the interior warm and heating costs low.

This energy-efficient design has been gaining ground in American architecture among wealthy homeowners. But some cities like Portland, Maine, have realized this energy-efficient design for the affordable housing sector – for residents who can really benefit from lower heating costs.

The Christian Science Monitor

Downtown Lewiston housing development clears hurdle with initial council approval

LEWISTON — A housing development bringing 35 units to the downtown cleared a major hurdle Tuesday when the City Council gave initial approval for developers to build more units than allowed in the residential zone.

For the past six years, the lot at Blake and Pine streets has been empty following a string of fires in 2013.

A proposal by Avesta Housing has attracted strong support and some criticism.

Following a lengthy session of public comment Tuesday, filled with mostly support for the project based on Lewiston’s shortage of safe and affordable housing, the City Council voted 4-2 to approve the contract rezoning in a first reading.

Sun Journal

Maine has lowest rate in New England for testing children for lead poisoning

PORTLAND (WGME) – A new report released Wednesday shows Maine has the lowest rates in New England for testing children for exposure to lead poisoning.

Under federal mandates, one- and two-year-olds should be tested for lead poisoning during yearly check-ups, but new data shows, here in Maine, not even half of children that age are getting the proper screenings.

“This is a no brainer for me, we need the data and we need to be testing our kids,” Rep. Victoria Morales said.


Avesta South Paris senior housing, in former school, set to open

The former Fox School in South Paris is about to welcome residents into what is now new senior housing.

Portland nonprofit Avesta has converted the two-story former school into 12 affordable rental apartments for seniors. The residence is scheduled to open at the end of the month.

As part of the redevelopment, Avesta is collecting memories from those associated with the school “to ensure that generations of stories are recorded at this pivotal point in the building’s history,” the organization says on its website. Avesta hopes to create a book for display in the building’s community room.


Fox School transitions to senior housing in Paris

PARIS — On a warm June afternoon in 1919, a large crowd from Norway and Paris gathered at the Paris High School diamond to cheer on their baseball teams during the last game of the season – a week after classes ended for the school year.

The two rival teams concluded their season with a victory for the Norwayites from Norway High School who with a “wicked pounding won the bacon ” in the ninth inning. The celebration was had with “no open hostilities,” reported the Advertiser Democrat.

Only a week earlier, 12 Paris High School seniors had gathered at the local Baptist Church, standing on a platform covered with flags, ferns and the class flower, roses, to receive their diplomas.

Sun Journal