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Top U.S. Housing Official Tours Lewiston Teen Homeless Shelter

Susan Sharon
HUD Secretary Julian Castro shoots pool Friday at the New Beginnings homeless shelter for teens in Lewiston.

LEWISTON, Maine - U.S Secretary of Housing and Urban and Development Julian Castro joined Sen. Susan Collins Friday for a tour of the newly-expanded New Beginnings teen homeless shelter and drop-in center in Lewiston.

The drop-in center is used by young people who are either homeless or at risk for homelessness, and who need food, hygiene supplies, counseling and a place to start setting goals.

The center opened last month after previously operating in downtown Lewiston for nearly 30 years. HUD Secretary Castro says he hopes to use successful programs like New Beginnings as a model around the country.

"We want to ensure that we're making the best use of existing resources, and then also recognize that there is a tremendous need out there," Castro says. "And we do need to see how we can invest, reasonably, more resources in these kinds of programs."

Collins says carefully targeted programs for homeless youth do make a difference. Collins is the lead sponsor for reauthorization of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, which helps support drop-in and outreach centers like New Beginnings.
"We are in a time of really tough budget constraints, but we can prioritize programs and listen to those involved with them and figure out what works," she says, "and New Beginnings works."

Funding for New Beginnings is provided by individual and corporate donors, private organizations and HUD. Each year about 700 Maine youth access its programming, including housing referrals.  

One of the alumni of the program, Brittany Dixon, was invited by Collins to testify before her Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee in April.  With help from the program, Dixon is now a college graduate who wants to become a kindergarten teacher.