Supportive housing project closer to reality
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Aroostook County is one step closer to a new 14-unit supportive housing project, unique to the region, that will serve vulnerable people at risk of homelessness.
The Aroostook County Action Program recently finalized the purchase and assumed ownership of the property located on the corner of Edgemont and Central drives in Skyway Industrial Park in Presque Isle. ACAP plans to convert the office building at 1 Edgemont Drive into 14 units of affordable housing, consisting of four one-bedroom and 10 studio apartments, with the goal of opening in late 2023.
“The County, and entire State of Maine, are facing a critical shortage of affordable housing units. Our ACAP team has done everything possible to advance the timeline on this project and get this facility on-line as much as a year ahead of initial projection,” said ACAP Executive Director/CEO Jason Parent.
“Through the Emergency Rental Assistance program, we are currently assisting with housing over 100 individuals and families in local hotels who have no other housing available to them at this time. First and foremost, this facility will help meet part of this need. More importantly, the housing project will provide much more than just a safe and warm roof over the heads of a vulnerable population,” Parent said.
The facility will also permanently house ACAP’s Hope & Prosperity Resource Center, which was relocated to the building’s ground level in 2021 in anticipation of the supportive housing project. Staff on site will work directly with the residential clients on a daily basis.
The center is close to Homeless Services of Aroostook, the only homeless shelter in Aroostook County, and will provide residents at the Sister Mary O’Donnell Shelter access to a safe and warm place to receive supportive day services to help them reduce their time unhoused.
ACAP’s center coaches and/or navigators complete assessments with clients to determine the best plan to find them long term housing. Coaches are searching daily to find housing and request extensions so people with vouchers will not lose their assistance.
Since the center opened in 2019, 198 people who have identified as being homeless were assisted, providing over 7,888 services to help them toward self-sufficiency — such as assistance with paperwork, accessing meas, resume skill building, connections with education and employment. The center works with as many as 20 people daily.
The project is advancing ahead of schedule because of the support of community partners who have committed funding toward the $4.3 million dollar project. ACAP has been awarded a $2.4 million supportive housing grant for the apartment units by MaineHousing. Other grants and funding of more than $1.3 million have been designated to support the renovations and additions like shower, laundry and kitchen facilities, as well as a multimedia learning center.
“We are most grateful for the high-level of interest and support we have received to make this needed supportive housing project reality,” said ACAP Director of Advancement Sherry Locke. “We are quickly closing in on the remaining funds needed to begin the extensive building renovations. We have every reason to believe we will be ready to put the project out to bid later this year and that the project will be underway in earnest by the time the snow flies next winter.”
One of the next steps in securing funding for the project will come in the form of a joint Community Development Block Grant application advanced by the City of Presque Isle to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development. Last month, the Star City, in partnership with ACAP, submitted a letter of intent for the project and has been invited to follow with a full application.
Presque Isle City officials, who are exploring a wide array of opportunities to expand housing options in the community, have supported the ACAP project. The planning board and city council recently passed new comprehensive zoning changes that included a rezoning of the Edgemont Drive property to pave the way for the residential development.
ACAP initially entered into a purchase and sale agreement for the property last summer. The agency simultaneously entered into a lease on the building to temporarily house administrative offices and the agency’s prevention team on the upper level, and supportive housing services, along with the Hope and Prosperity Resource Center, on the lower level. The additional temporary office space at 1 Edgemont Drive has allowed for ACAP Direct Service Programs in Central Aroostook, including new pandemic support programs, to be offered through the 771 Main Street Service Center Building.