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Registration drive provides election information to residents

Avesta Housing recently partnered with League of Women Voters (LWV) of Maine to help Avesta residents register to vote in the upcoming midterm election. From mid-September to Oct. 18, volunteers from LWV canvassed door-to-door at Avesta properties throughout Maine, distributing nonpartisan election information and instructions on how to register.

The majority of residents welcomed the canvassers into their homes, said Avesta Resident Service Manager Nicholas Kjeldgaard. Many are recent immigrants eager to participate in the democratic process; if they are not U.S. citizens, they are given information on how to obtain citizenship.

According to Lado Ladoka, program director with LWV of Maine, the partnership with Avesta has been a great success. “Our research shows that people who are low-income are less likely to vote, but they are the most affected by policy,” he said. “Many things in their lives are important; if they can put voting as one of the most important things, they can help make our society much better.”

Avesta Housing builds 52-unit apartment complex for asylum seekers in South Portland

South Portland will soon be home to a 52-unit apartment building that will provide housing for asylum seeking families, many of whom are currently staying in motels and shelters.

But some housing advocates say the new space is just a drop in the bucket.

Avesta Housing is overseeing construction of the new property, which will be able to house over 100 people in apartments ranging in size from efficiencies to three bedrooms.

Avesta Housing preparing to open residential complex for asylum seekers

Avesta Housing is preparing to open a new apartment complex intended for asylum seekers.

The facility, on Westbrook Street in South Portland, will include 52 units, and the nonprofit housing developer hopes families can begin moving into their new homes in November.

“I think we’re all just excited to be a small piece of the solution,” Amanda Gilliam, Avesta Housing director of property management, said.

Avesta provides affordable housing to asylum seekers experiencing homelessness

Angola. Afghanistan. South Sudan. Rwanda. Burundi. Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Asylum seekers in Maine come from these countries and more. They have different beliefs, different cultures, different backgrounds. But they have at least one thing in common: They have been forced to flee their home countries. Now they are in Maine, eager to begin a new phase in their lives and hopeful for a better future.

Last month, Avesta Housing processed 1,037 applications for apartments at West End II, our new development in South Portland. The majority of applicants are asylum seekers who are homeless and living in motels or shelters.

We held open office hours multiple times throughout the application week to meet with and support the influx of people who needed help applying. Staff assisted with applications, and some served as interpreters for applicants who spoke no or limited English.

It was good to engage with members of the community again, said Applicant Services Manager Emily Pelletier. And it was gratifying to know they were helping those in need of affordable housing.

“I think I can speak for my team when I say that what we are taking away from this experience is a real wish we had even more apartments for these folks,” Pelletier said.

The massive number of applications is indicative of the great need for safe, quality, affordable housing in Maine and New Hampshire, said Avesta Housing President & CEO Rebecca Hatfield.

“The sheer volume of applications for West End II is an alarm signal that we must be purposeful and creative in our approach to meeting the needs not just of asylum seekers experiencing homelessness, but also of the many others who come to us every day seeking an affordable home,” Hatfield said. “We currently have more than 700 new homes in the development pipeline, and we are actively working to acquire and build more in the years to come. With the dedication and support of our staff, partners, and supporters, we will continue to seek creative ways to help ensure that everyone has a place to call home.”

Avesta partner provides groceries to food-insecure residents

Inflation hits lower-income populations the hardest. When the price of groceries increases dramatically, people who are already struggling to buy basic necessities are in danger of going hungry. Avesta Housing has formed partnerships with numerous food banks to help ensure that residents who are food insecure receive the help they need. One of the oldest and largest of these partners is Wayside Food Programs.

An Avesta staff member collects food from Wayside Food Program’s warehouse to distribute to residents during a summer barbecue for Pearl Place and Unity at Bayside in Portland.

A nonprofit founded in the 1980s, Wayside salvages edible food that is not sellable for cosmetic reasons, packaging imperfections, and/or inventory levels from grocery stores, wholesalers, farms, and other food establishments. That food is then redirected to soup kitchens, food pantries, and other social service agencies across southern Maine.

Wayside distributes community meals at two Avesta family properties: Brick Hill in South Portland and 409 Cumberland in Portland. It also provides food to our senior properties and at events held by property management teams for residents.

Many of the volunteers who assist with the distribution live at Avesta properties or in the surrounding communities, which typically contain the same economic demographic.

“Avesta has been a great partner for us, because it’s such a perfect fit,” said Wayside Executive Director Mary Zwolinski.

Unlike some food pantries that have designated pick-up times at a permanent location, Wayside operates as a mobile food provider. The concept is simple but effective: Bring the food to the people who need it.

“Wayside thinks outside the box,” said Nicholas Kjeldgaard, resident service manager with Avesta Housing.

 

 

River Turn Woods celebrated with groundbreaking

CONWAY, NH — Avesta Housing celebrated its first affordable housing development in Mount Washington Valley on Sept. 23 with a groundbreaking ceremony featuring development, legislative, and financial partners.

When completed, River Turn Woods will provide 156 new homes to the Conway area. The first phase, consisting of 40 new homes, is expected to be completed by summer 2023. The development is located near the Technology Village Business Resource Center on Route 16 (White Mountain Highway).

“Avesta is honored to be part of this vibrant community that holds such a rich history, and we are proud to be able to bring much-needed affordable housing to the area,” said Avesta Housing President and CEO Rebecca Hatfield. “We recognize that New Hampshire and Maine are experiencing a dire and unprecedented affordable housing crisis, and we are committed to doing everything we can to address that challenge.”

Also speaking at the event were Patrick Hess, Avesta Housing director of real estate development; Chuck Henderson, special assistant for policy and projects for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen; Ben Belanger, senior assistant for policy and projects for Sen. Maggie Hassan; Rob Dapice, executive director and CEO of New Hampshire Housing; Andy Dean, chair of the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition; and Diane Donaldson, senior vice president with Bangor Savings Bank.

In addition to those listed above, Avesta thanks the following for their support and expertise in helping to make this development and groundbreaking event a reality: Attitash Ski Resort, WNC, Federal Loan Home Bank of Boston, the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, the Town of Conway, Preti Flaherty, the Mt. Washington Valley Economic Council, State Sen. Jeb Bradley, Lassel Architects, Hutter Construction Corp., and HEB Engineers Inc.

Avesta Housing is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year as a leader in affordable housing development and services. Its portfolio includes 110 affordable housing properties with a total of 3,200 apartments housing nearly 5,000 residents. River Turn Woods is one of several Avesta developments under construction that will collectively provide more than 700 new affordable homes to Maine and New Hampshire.

Participants celebrate the development of River Turn Woods, a new Avesta Housing affordable housing development in Conway, N.H., with a ceremonial groundbreaking. (L-R): Jay Muth, vice president of community development, Bangor Savings Bank; Diane Donaldson, senior vice president of commercial lending, Bangor Savings Bank; Ben Belanger, senior assistant for policy and projects for Sen. Maggie Hassan; Chuck Henderson, special assistant for policy and projects for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen; Rob Dapice, executive director and CEO of New Hampshire Housing; Rebecca Hatfield, president and CEO of Avesta Housing; Andy Dean, chair of the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition; David Ciminelli, vice president of originations, WNC & Associates; Patrick Hess, director of real estate development, Avesta Housing; John Eastman, town manager, City of Conway; Lars Traffie, president, Hutter Construction; Sarah Hourihane, principal architect, Lassel Architects; and Michal Kaleta, project manager, Lassel Architects (Photo by Cheryl Senter/New Hampshire Housing)

Deering Place mural pays homage to residents and community

One of the unique aspects of Deering Place, Avesta Housing’s new affordable housing development in downtown Portland, is the use of art to decorate interior and exterior space. Several local artists provided work to bring Deering closer to the pulse of the community and make it a warm, welcoming home to residents.

Among the more striking pieces is a large-scale mural on the wall of the exterior parking garage. Greeting motorists as they pull into the space, the work consists of two parts: A sign that bids “welcome” in five languages and a larger sign that reads “Deering Place” with images inside the letters.

The mural is the work of Ryan Adams, who over the past decade has become one of the most in-demand artists for businesses and public spaces in Maine and elsewhere. Through his art, the Portland native tells the story of a location that is educational while aesthetically pleasing.

For the Deering Place mural, Ryan created a design that is a nod to traditional postcards with big block letters representing the advertised location. That meant not only references to Portland (Monument Square, a lobster) but references to residents’ home countries (African textile patterns, a desert scene, a woman wearing a hijab).

The intent was to capture the diversity of the resident population, which includes everyone from native Mainers to recent immigrants. Residents were invited to give their input as to what the design should incorporate, and were shown sketches to ensure the depictions were accurate.

Deering Place residents and staff will recognize a familiar face in the last letter, “E”: Maintenance technician Matt Lorello. Ryan was asked to paint something that depicted a traditional Mainer. He found his muse in Matt. “Once I met him, I thought, ‘Oh, he’s perfect!” Ryan said.

For Ryan, working at Deering Place was more than just a job. It was an honor.

“Having the chance to make something that hopefully represents the residents and their cultures or where they’re from was very special to me,” Ryan said. “It’s not a public piece; it’s just for the residents of this building. That’s a layer that I don’t often have.”

For more information about Ryan and his art, visit his website: ryanwritesonthings.com

 

New apartments may soon be available for asylum seekers in greater Portland

New apartments may soon be available for asylum seekers and their families.

Right now, Avesta Housing is negotiating the rental terms with the developers for two properties in greater Portland.

Asylum seekers from Angola say they’re eager to apply for the new apartments.

The state will pay the rent for the apartments until the asylum seekers are able to secure jobs, and it will cost a lot less than the public dollars being shelled out to local hotels.

Avesta Housing works to finalize plans for 100 new apartments for asylum seekers

Avesta Housing is working to finalize plans to provide 100 new apartment units for asylum seekers staying in Portland area hotels.

Right now, homeless shelters in the area are full and hundreds of asylum seekers are staying in overflow hotels that cost roughly $240 a night.

“That’s very costly to the city and the state and the government, and so, the quicker we can move them out of hotels, the more money we can save,” Avesta Housing executive director Dana Totman said.

 

Avesta Housing plans apartments for asylum seekers in South Portland, Portland

Avesta Housing is negotiating contracts to provide 100 apartments for asylum seekers now receiving emergency shelter in Greater Portland hotels.

The permanent housing will be located in projects under construction in Portland and South Portland, but Avesta and state officials aren’t saying exactly where they are or who’s building them.

The rents will be funded with a portion of the $22 million that the Legislature earmarked in the biennial state budget to address emergency housing needs across Maine. The cost of the apartments hasn’t been announced, but it’s expected to be a lot less than the $200 to $300 per night that MaineHousing and other agencies are paying for hotel rooms.

“That cost is just not sustainable,” said Dana Totman, Avesta Housing’s executive director. “Part of what we’re doing is going to save significant public dollars.”