Portland Opens Third Apartment Complex for Homeless

Portland, Maine (WMTW) 30 Mainers who were homeless now have a place to live.

The full-furnished efficiency apartments are home to Mainers who had been living on the streets or in shelters for years.Officials with the city of Portland opened Huston Commons Tuesday morning near Morrill’s Corner.

This is the third such complex in Portland, and the city says apartments like these are already providing a major benefit for those who now call them home.


New housing complex offers home to homeless

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER)– Some members of Portland’s homeless population now have a place to call home.

Preble Street officially opened the third complex of its Housing First initiative: Houston Commons, an apartment complex designed to help the chronically homeless by providing a permanent place for them to live. Huston Commons houses 30 people who have been living on the streets of the city for years.

Katharine Bavoso


Housing first helps both the homeless and the community

Twelve years ago, Avesta Housing and Preble Street opened the doors to Logan Place, the first “housing first” community in Maine. Housing first is an evidence-based, cost-effective approach to ending chronic homelessness. It focuses on getting our most vulnerable neighbors housed as quickly as possible while ensuring that they have ongoing access to critical support services. Avesta is the developer, owner and property manager for Logan Place, while Preble Street provides 24-7 support services for the 30 residents who had experienced chronic homelessness before moving into their new home.

When we opened Logan Place, it was a huge risk. No one else in Maine, and very few people anywhere else in the country, had done anything like this. We were essentially putting millions of dollars and our nonprofit organizations’ reputations on the line to test a new approach to housing Portland’s most vulnerable population – people who had already struggled enormously to stay housed. But the remarkable results have proven to be more than worth the risk.

On the night Logan Place opened, the number of people using the city overnight shelter at Oxford Street decreased for the first time in 20 years. Moreover, after moving into Logan Place, the residents reduced their nights in jail by 88 percent, their visits to the emergency room by 70 percent, and their contacts with police by 81 percent. The data have revealed that housing first is not only more humane, but also less costly than the endless cycle of shelters, emergency rooms, jails, and detox programs that chronically homeless people otherwise endure year after year.

Dana Totman, President and CEO of Avesta Housing

via Op-Ed to the Portland Press Herald

Portland Council OKs Zoning Incentives For Low-Income Housing Development

In an effort to increase low- and middle-income housing opportunities in Portland, city councilors have approved zoning incentives for development along some city corridors and in certain commercial areas.

Jeff Levine, planning and urban development director for the City of Portland, says the city was hearing from affordable housing developers that they were getting outbid for properties they were trying to buy on the private market.

Grand Opening of Portland’s 3rd Housing First Program

PORTLAND, ME (September 7, 2017) — On Tuesday, September 12 at 10am Avesta Housing and Preble Street celebrate Portland’s third “housing first” program, Huston Commons. The apartment building is now home to 30 formerly homeless individuals with chronic health challenges.

“The men and women at Huston Commons have not known stability or security for much of their lives,” said Mark Swann, Preble Street Executive Director. “But in this supported environment tenants no longer have to deal with the stress and danger of the streets and begin to hope, to heal, to work on recovery, and create community. Even just after a month, you can see—often literally—what a difference a home makes.”

Like Logan Place and Florence House which Preble Street and Avesta Housing opened in 2005 and 2010, respectively, Huston Commons will change and sometimes save the lives of the tenants, who include:

  • 3 veterans
  • 8 women
  • 12 people who have been living and sleeping outside for years
  • 13 people who were “long-term stayers” in the local shelter system, having spent thousands of nights at emergency shelters

“Portland’s affordable housing and homeless crisis is as challenging as we have ever seen. Huston Commons will change 30 lives, more than any other housing initiative this year,” said Avesta Housing President & CEO, Dana Totman.

In addition to helping vulnerable people and making a demonstrable difference in the city’s overcrowded emergency shelters, Huston Commons saves the community money. As has been proven over and over again, “housing first”—permanent housing with supportive services—is cheaper than the endless cycle of shelters, emergency rooms, jails, detox programs that chronically homeless people endure year after year. Housing first is the most humane and cost-effective solution to chronic homelessness.

Developed and owned by Avesta Housing, Huston Commons operates in partnership with Preble Street and Portland Housing Authority. Avesta Housing manages the building, and Preble Street provides on-site staffing, including social work services for tenants. Portland Housing Authority provides project-based rental assistance, which allows tenants to limit their rent payments to 30% of their income, while HUD funds cover the balance.

Each fully-furnished efficiency apartment is highly insulated and features water-conserving fixtures and features, a high-efficiency heating system, low or no-VOC paints and materials, and Energy Star-qualified appliances, lighting, and fixtures.

Huston Commons, located near Morrill’s Corner, was named for Steve Huston, a former Preble Street employee who experienced and overcame homelessness and who was an eloquent and forceful advocate for housing first. As Steve said, “We all deserve the dignity of … a home.”

What: Huston Commons Grand Opening

Where: Huston Commons, 72 Bishop Street, Portland, Maine, 04103

When: Tuesday, September 12, 2017

 10am: Coffee and donuts

 10:15am: Program

  • Ethan Strimling, Mayor, City of Portland
  • Michael Sauschuck, Chief of Police, City of Portland
  • Stephanie & Steven Huston, children of Steve Huston
  • Mark Swann, Executive Director, Preble Street
  • Dana Totman, President & CEO, Avesta Housing

10:45am: Apartment tours

Interviews with Huston Commons tenants are available upon request.

Preble Street is a nonprofit social work agency serving the most vulnerable people in Maine since 1975 through innovative, best-practice, client-centered programs that respond to and prevent hunger and homelessness. In addition to the largest emergency food service program in northern New England, Preble Street operates 14 low-barrier programs throughout Maine providing 24/365 services for individuals and families living in poverty, including homeless youth, women, veterans, and victims of human trafficking, driven by its mission to meet urgent needs, empower people to move beyond the crises in their lives, and advocate for solutions to homelessness, hunger, and poverty. www.PrebleStreet.org

Avesta Housing is a nonprofit affordable housing provider with over 40 years of experience as a leader in affordable housing development and property management in southern Maine and New Hampshire. The organization is headquartered in Portland, Maine and currently has more than 80 properties and 2,200 apartments in its portfolio. Avesta’s mission is to improve lives and strengthen communities by promoting and providing quality affordable homes for people in need. Its five areas of focus are advocacy, development, property management, home ownership, and assisted living. www.AvestaHousing.org

Preble Street Press Release

September 7th, 2017

Portland adopts incentives to help affordable housing projects compete for state funding

Portland city councilors voted Wednesday to approve zoning incentives for low- and middle-income housing developments in certain areas of the city.

The incentives will especially help developers of nonprofit housing compete for funding from the Maine State Housing Authority by reducing per unit construction costs – a major issue in Maine’s largest city.

“I think this is the most significant response to Portland’s affordable housing crisis that has been brought forward,” said Dana Totman, CEO of Avesta Housing, the state’s largest nonprofit affordable housing developer.

South Portland airs plan to revitalize West End

SOUTH PORTLAND  — A plan to revitalize the West End that highlights improved streets and sidewalks, new recreational opportunities and keeping the area affordable was presented Monday at a City Council workshop.

The plan encompassing the Redbank and Brick Hill neighborhoods and parts of Westbrook Street and Western Avenue includes an earlier public-private proposal to build affordable housing.

However, zoning changes are necessary to adopt some of the recommendations. Councilors would have to formally adopt the plan and authorize the zoning changes.

During the workshop, councilors also discussed “paper” streets and marijuana licensing.

The West End Neighborhood Master Plan highlights five objectives, including neighborhood connectivity, regional access for residents, sustainability, increasing recreation and open space, and developing a neighborhood center.

Melanie Sochan

The Forecaster

Developer aims to address need for affordable housing with new apartments in Parkside

Avesta Housing’s $10 million Deering Place would be available to residents with incomes of $20,000 to $40,000, a response to affordability concerns in Portland’s red hot real estate market.

Maine’s largest affordable-housing developer wants to build 82 apartments – mostly for low-income residents – in Portland’s Parkside neighborhood, adding badly needed units at below-market rates in a city where gentrification threatens to displace many low- and middle-income residents on the peninsula.

Randy Billings

Portland Press Herald

Avesta Housing Receives Grant From KeyBank – $10,000 donation provides financial counseling services to affordable housing applicants

PORTLAND, Maine, July 19, 2017 — Avesta Housing in Portland has received a $10,000 charitable grant from KeyBank Foundation for its NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center. Avesta’s mission is to improve lives and strengthen communities by promoting and providing quality affordable homes for people in need. KeyBank’s funding will help Avesta to provide free financial counseling and education to low-income applicants and residents in an effort to help them achieve and retain housing, and improve their overall financial health.

Avesta NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center director Nicole DiGeronimo explained the impact of this grant, “KeyBank Foundation’s generous grant enables us to help low-income applicants for our affordable housing better understand and manage their personal finances. The free financial counseling and education we provide is an important step toward financial stability and success.”

KeyBank is committed to helping clients and communities thrive, with a focus on assisting people at all income levels gain access to safe, affordable and stable housing.

“Often, financial counseling is a key ingredient to helping low income individuals and families achieve and sustain affordable housing,” said KeyBank mortgage sales manager Nicholas Brouillette.  “We are pleased to partner with Avesta to help provide counseling and supportive services that lead to successful residency and financial wellness.”

About Avesta Housing:

Avesta Housing is a nonprofit affordable housing provider with over 40 years of experience as a leader in affordable housing development and property management in southern Maine and New Hampshire. The organization is headquartered in Portland, Maine and currently has more than 80 properties and 2,200 apartments in its portfolio. Avesta’s mission is to improve lives and strengthen communities by promoting and providing quality affordable homes for people in need. Its five areas of focus are advocacy, development, property management, homeownership, and assisted living. www.AvestaHousing.org

About KeyBank Foundation:

KeyBank Foundation serves to fulfill KeyBank’s purpose to help clients and communities thrive, and its mission is to support organizations and programs that prepare people for thriving futures. The Foundation’s mission is advanced through three funding priorities – neighbors, education, and workforce – and through community service. To provide meaningful philanthropy that transforms lives, KeyBank Foundation listens carefully to understand the unique characteristics and needs of its communities and then backs solutions with targeted philanthropic investments. KeyBank Foundation is a nonprofit charitable foundation, funded by KeyCorp.

Sara Olson, Director of Development & Communications – Avesta Housing

Press Release