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New overnight warming shelter opening in church for unhoused Augusta residents

South Parish Congregational Church in Augusta in 2013.
John Phelan
Wikipedia/Creative Commons
South Parish Congregational Church in Augusta in 2013.

A new overnight warming shelter is opening on Tuesday night in Augusta.

The emergency shelter, housed at the city's South Parish Congregational Church, was approved by the city in September. It's largely being funding by federal relief dollars and a grant from the United Way of Kennebec Valley.

The church's pastor, Nathan Richards, said a warming shelter has been needed for years in the city, as groups have had to hand out tents and sleeping bags for unhoused residents on cold winter nights.

"So we're kind of filling that gap, that's been long needed here, as far as I can see. Making sure people have a place to stay at night, particularly in the cold weather," he said.

Richards said that it also will be the city's only low-barrier shelter, meaning it accepts residents who may not be welcome at other shelters.

"Because in our opinion, to do that, really kind of limits most of the people who are homeless, frankly," Richards said. "Most of the folks, a good portion of the folks that are homeless that we're seeing are struggling with mental illness issues or addictions."

Richards said the shelter will have capacity for about 20 residents initially. He said efforts will be made to find alternative arrangements for children, such as rooms at a local hotel or motel.

The center will operate daily from 7 p.m. through 7 a.m.