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40-bed homeless shelter approved with plan for complaints

January 6, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Portland has approved an application for a 40-bed homeless shelter in the city’s downtown along with a plan to respond to complaints or concerns from neighbors.

In a vote on Tuesday evening, the city’s planning board unanimously approved the application to convert the nonprofit Preble Street’s resource center to a homeless shelter with 40 beds, the Portland Press Herald reported.

The vote was proceeded by more than two hours of public comments and two workshops where the board heard feedback about how Preble Street would respond to concerns from neighbors, the newspaper reported. Most of the public comments were supportive of the shelter being built.

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The shelter is the first approved under new city rules that include a mandate that shelters have a plan to respond to complaints, the newspaper reported.

“We quite clearly meet every criteria,” Edward Kelleher, an attorney representing Preble Street, told the newspaper, acknowledging that the process had strengthened the nonprofit’s plan.

Preble Street applied for a permit for the shelter in August, which the Bayside Neighborhood Association opposed at the time.

As part of the complaint management plan, Preble Street promised to attend 75% of the association’s meetings, operate a 24-hour hotline for neighbors and follow up with information about how the situation that initiated the complaint was handled, the newspaper reported. The nonprofit also promised to ask people not currently served by the shelter not to hang out nearby.

Preble Street closed the resource center in March due to safety concerns during the pandemic and says the shelter will operate with coronavirus precautions like spaced-out beds, the newspaper reported.