PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Homeless Services of Aroostook’s new executive director is looking into making several improvements to The County’s only homeless shelter.
Mapleton resident Kari Bradstreet, who came on board near the end of June, said that two more family rooms that would accommodate a total of eight people experiencing homelessness should be operational by Nov. 1. The new building is next to the shelter at 160 Airport Dr.
Bradstreet is planning to add new services to the Sister Mary O’Donnell Shelter that will allow people outside of the shelter to call ahead of time for a shower, pick up food at the door and use the shelter’s laundry facilities.
“There should be a counselor here, they should have a meeting here [at the Sister Mary O’Donnell Shelter] once a week that should already be here,” said one person experiencing homelessness, who asked to remain anonymous because they fear the stigma their situation carries.
Approximately 82 people have been housed through the Sister Mary O’Donnell program. Aroostook Bridge Program has housed from 70 to 80 people, and about 80 people were at the warming center, according to Bradstreet.
On average, the homeless shelter at the former Presque Isle Air Base chapel has from 40 to 45 people every day.
“It’s very busy. Our numbers are continuously topping our capacity,” Bradstreet said.
The new building was purchased and renovated with a $555,000 grant through Long Term Solutions. The building is still being renovated.
For the existing Sister Mary O’Donnell Shelter, the staff is working to secure a Maine Housing Authority grant of between $200,000 and $250,000 to make structural and safety improvements to the shelter.
The Sister Mary’ ODonnell Shelter has also received $10,000 from the Maine Community Foundation and around $5,000 from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to replace their ADA access ramp for the shelter.
The new building will also have sections for administrative purposes and a warming shelter with a capacity of 15 people experiencing homelessness for overnight stays. Over last winter, the previous capacity was from 10 to 12 overnight stays at the Sister Mary O’Donnell Shelter.
There will be no barriers for people with a history of being sex offenders to enter the warming shelter. Sex offenders will be housed away from families.
“We don’t want anyone to have to go through dealing with the temperatures and the cold,” said Brad Summerlin, HSA residential services manager. “This is an opportunity for us to literally help anyone that we can during the more desperate times of the year.”
Over the wet summer in northern Maine, the people experiencing homelessness needed immediate resources, including shelter, food and recovery programs for addictions, Summerlin said.
Summerlin has worked at the shelter for nine years, and was promoted three weeks ago to residential services manager.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated how long Brad Summerlin has worked at the shelter. He’s worked there for nine years.