Annual survey shows Portland’s problem of homelessness by the numbers

They trekked through snowy fields and wooded areas, along icy roads and railroad tracks, up slippery embankments and down slushy paths.

Six teams of volunteers and social service workers fanned out across Portland on Wednesday night to conduct the city’s annual point-in-time count of homeless people as required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The full tally, which won’t be available for a few days, will include any people who spent the night outdoors or in one of the city’s shelters.

Kelley Walsh was on a five-member team that scoured the outer reaches of Deering Oaks, the woods behind Bruno’s Restaurant and the Portland Boxing Club on outer Forest Avenue, and a section of Marginal Way along Interstate 295. Walsh, who works for an agency that serves victims of domestic violence, said she volunteered for the count because homelessness is a significant challenge for many of her clients.

“I did it last year and it was very enlightening,” Walsh said. “A majority of our clients deal with homelessness in some way.”

Kelley Bouchard

Portland Press Herald

A Bold Plan to Prevent Homelessness

It can’t be said enough that New York’s homelessness crisis is complicated. In a city where people are squeezed beyond their means by rising rents, just one of any number of additional stresses — a lost job, sickness, addiction, domestic violence — can propel a family into the shelter system or the street.

The problem won’t be solved by flooding the city with shelter beds, though more are needed. It certainly won’t be solved by blocking City Hall’s shelter plans, as New Yorkers in neighborhoods like Maspeth, Queens, have stridently done, demanding that these families go suffer someplace else. Protesters seem to think that poor people can be harangued into making the rent.

The current crisis requires bigger, bolder solutions, and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi is proposing one. It’s a plan to create a statewide rental subsidy to help families on public assistance stay in their homes. The program, called Home Stability Support, would help bridge the gap between the shelter allowance for public assistance recipients and market rents. Families who face eviction or are forced to move because of domestic violence or hazardous living conditions need a sturdy bridge to permanent housing. But existing aid often isn’t enough to help them avoid the shelter trap. Mr. Hevesi’s proposal would use state and federal funds to supplement a family’s shelter allowance up to 85 percent of fair-market rent (localities could add their own funds to raise that to 100 percent) and would help pay for heat, if heat is not included in rent.

The New York Times Editorial Board

Exeter’s Three Meeting Place seeks to complete affordable housing project

EXETER — Avesta Housing recently applied for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to receive $500,000 in funding for the fourth phase of its affordable housing project at Meeting Place Drive off Epping Road. Felder Kuehl Properties, LLC also approached the town for the same grant to break ground at 85 Epping Road.

Avesta’s final installment at Three Meeting Place will provide 43 one-bedroom and two-bedroom units to families, completing the multi-building campus at Meeting Place Drive. The current campus consists of three buildings and 97 units.

A CDBG grant is a federal program run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop viable communities by providing decent housing, a suitable living environment, and opportunities to expand economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons.

Eliza Sneeden

Seacoast Online

Federal Home Loan Bank awards $5.5m for NH affordable housing

Five New Hampshire housing initiatives have been awarded nearly $5.5 million in grants, loans and interest-rate subsidies through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston’s 2016 Affordable Housing Program.

All told, the bank announced that 45 projects in New England will receive $56.4 million in assistance. The funds will be used to finance 1,100 units of affordable rental and ownership housing for households earning at or below 80 percent of area median income in seven states.

The funds were awarded through member financial institutions to projects that will create or preserve affordable rental and ownership housing. AHP funds are used to create or preserve affordable housing and help pay construction, acquisition or rehabilitation costs.

New Hampshire Business Review

Pivotal funding pushes forward Maine affordable housing projects

Plans to create nearly 400 new units of affordable housing in Maine will move ahead after receiving crucial financial support from a federal bank this week.

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston will play a pivotal role in the development of much-needed affordable housing in 2017, providing $17.5 million in subsidies for 13 projects in Maine to build or renovate more than 380 rental units, according to a release from the bank.

Among those projects are three involving Portland-based developer Avesta Housing Development Corp. Avesta CEO Dana Totman said there is a critical need for more affordable housing in Maine and called the Boston bank’s support essential.

“In some cases, the project never would get built (without it),” Totman said Thursday. “In other cases, we might have waited another year and reapplied.”

Avesta has about 3,000 people on its wait list this year, he said. “Our phone is simply ringing off the hook with people looking for affordable housing.”

J. Craig Anderson

Press Herald

Nominations arrive for Great Person Award

It’s time for the Sentry Great Person Award nominations.

Each year we ask our readers to tell us who has influenced their lives. There are no special qualifications for the Great Person Award – it’s simply to honor those who make this community a special place to live.

Your Great Person may be the person who hands you your morning coffee daily with a smile on her face. It may be the volunteer who works tirelessly for an area nonprofit. It may be a teacher who spends that extra moment helping you, or a police officer who coaches your son’s basketball team. The award is meant to be a thank you for all they do during the year.

The winner will be interviewed for a newspaper article.


How Portland’s Bayside Plans to Cope With Increased Flooding Caused by Climate Change

Climate change poses a threat to property and infrastructure up and down the East Coast, and in Portland, residents and planners are starting to devise a response.

The latest installment of our occasional series “Beyond 350: Confronting Climate Change” focuses on the growing movement toward “coastal resilience.”

Portland’s Bayside neighborhood is one of the city’s most vulnerable to climate change. Rising sea-levels and more frequent, intense rainfalls are taxing its aging stormwater overflow systems.

“The biggest problem is that Bayside is our lowest elevation neighborhood,” says Bill Needelman, the city’s Waterfront Coordinator.

Needelman says this area, on a flat plain near the city’s Back Cove inlet, is 4-5 feet lower than bustling Commercial St. on the harbor.

Fred Bever

Maine Public

Resident’s View: Chomba Kaluba Shares How Home is a Foundation

      Chomba Kaluba, a resident at Avesta Housing’s mixed-income development 409 Cumberland in Portland, Maine, sat down with Affordable Housing Finance to discuss what home and community mean to him. Kaluba also is an Avesta Housing board member. Please click the link below to be redirected to video of the interview.

Technology + housing = more accessible health care

My mother’s brush with death started out innocuously. She had a persistent “wheezing,” and while—as the days passed by and it turned into a cough—she knew it probably should have gone away by that time, it took too much energy to catch the required two buses to visit her physician. It could wait a little longer, she reasoned.

Yes, at 85, that was not the smartest conclusion, but she has always been the type to not complain. I live a two-hour flight away and my sister requires a two-hour drive to visit. She didn’t want to use up our calls and visits with what she viewed as “whining,” so we had no idea she was feeling so poorly.  When my sister began to catch on, my mom promised to visit her doctor. But she didn’t.  Already living alone in a retirement community, she stopped going downstairs for meals regularly or even visiting her friends. Meanwhile, the weariness caused by the cough caused her to stop doing the exercises she needed to rehabilitate her recently repaired shoulder.

Both of those disasters in the making could likely have been nipped in the bud if she had been able to “virtually” consult with a physician or nurse early on. Instead, she developed pneumonia and came very close to dying. She has never fully recovered; in fact, in a few weeks, she will have to move in with my sister, away from the retirement community she loves.Such a scenario is exactly the type that Kim Farrar, vice president of residential services at Avesta Housing in Portland, Maine, hopes to prevent with the organization’s experiment with telemedicine.

Pam Bailey

NeighborWorks Blog

Affordable Senior Housing Development Breaks Ground in Hampton Falls

HAMPTON FALLS, NH — Construction has begun for the Meadows at Grapevine Run, an affordable senior housing development in Hampton Falls by Avesta Housing, and will be available to rent next summer 2017. With financing help from Meredith Village Savings Bank (MVSB), the Meadows at Grapevine Run will offer 24 units of affordable, one-bedroom senior housing on a 57-acre site in the center of town, according to a press statement. It will also include a community room and laundry room.

The project is sponsored by Avesta Housing, a nonprofit developer that specializes in affordable housing.

“We’re proud to support local organizations, like Avesta Housing, that help our communities thrive,” said Rick Wyman, the president of Meredith Village Savings Bank. “With a loan processing office in Hampton Falls and construction for our new branch in Portsmouth slated to start soon, the Seacoast has become a major community focus for us. We are happy to do all we can to further the economic advancement of this area.”

Tony Schinella

The Patch