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Despite pushback, Lewiston's city council plans to consider a moratorium on homeless shelters

The sun rises over Downtown Lewiston, Maine, Friday, March 17, 2017.
David Goldman
Associated Press file
The sun rises over Downtown Lewiston, Maine, Friday, March 17, 2017.

Despite pushback from community members and housing advocates, councilors in Lewiston will continue to pursue a moratorium on emergency homeless shelters in the city.

The council voted 4-3 on Tuesday night for city staff to create a moratorium ordinance that could go before the council at its next meeting. The move comes in response to a proposed low-barrier, 24-bed shelter and resource center. Some councilors have questioned its need due to potential costs, and said a potential moratorium would give them more time to look at the issue.

But several community members, including Amy Smith, who operates affordable housing units, said a pause would only hurt the city's unhoused residents.

"The only thing a moratorium will guarantee is that there will be no new resources in 2022. And our homeless neighbors will have to suffer through another harsh Maine winter without housing, and without the resources they desperately need to succeed," Smith said.

And some councilors, including Linda Scott, said that a moratorium wasn't necessary.

"I think that all of us on this City Council, and everybody on that resource team, are smart enough to get together and figure this situation out, and make the change we need to see happen in this community," Scott said. "And I do not support pushing forward for our city staff to research putting a moratorium in place at this time."

The council could consider a potential ordinance at its next meeting later this month.