Waterville drops idea to buy yurts for unhoused people living outside this winter
After turning heads with an idea to purchase yurts for unhoused people living near the riverfront this winter, the city of Waterville has decided to abandon the concept.
Local outreach workers met with law enforcement and Waterville officials to discuss the idea and decided that it would pose too much liability for the city.
"It needs a lot more work and it's not something that the city's going to be able to do," Waterville Mayor Jay Coelho said Wednesday of the original idea. "We're going to go and look to do some outreach with private organizations that are constantly out there on the ground, which is part of what was going to happen originally with the yurts anyway. It wasn't like you were just going to give people a place to sleep and leave them to their own devices."
Instead, the city landed on a plan that would expand hours at the local soup kitchen and train volunteers to staff a temporary emergency shelter during winter storms or extreme cold.
The new plan, which the Waterville City Council adopted Wednesday night, includes no new funding. But Coelho said the city will need to find more resources to address a growing homelessness problem in the region.
"Other communities who are watching — and I'm talking about Winslow, Oakland and Fairfield and anyone else that connects to Waterville — some of these people have come from your communities," he said. "Get to the table and help us figure this out."
The plan also envisions eventually building a permanent emergency shelter and expanding outreach and housing navigation services through the Mid Maine Homeless Shelter.