Florence House ready to serve homeless women

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Advocates for the homeless are excited about the opening of a new permanent home set to open to serve the needs of homeless women in Portland. Florence House, a collaboration between Avesta Housing and the Preble Street Resource Center, took five year to plan and build and cost nearly $8 million. It will welcome its new tenants on Tuesday.

“Women have a unique risk when they are on the streets. Definitely they are a vulnerable population that adds costs to emergency room care, to police calls,” explained Christina Griffin, supervisor of the brand new Florence House, a 30,000 square foot building with apartments and shelter space for chronically homeless women.

“There is a huge need for it, especially since the YWCA closed in Portland and left Portland without 70 rooms for women that women were using those rooms on a weekly basis,” she said. “The Y was always full.”

Florence House, which is located on Valley Street, will have 25 efficiency apartments with a small kitchen, a bed and a bathroom for tenants. The facility also has 15 safe haven spaces – small semi-private areas with a bed and storage space so women who currently live at the Oxford Street Shelter can have a 24 hour place to call their own. The building also has 10 emergency shelter beds with space to add an additional 15 overflow beds.

“When you give people a permanent space to call home, they have the time and ability to focus on the things that they need to do to get back on track,” said Debora Keller, director of development for Avesta Housing, the non-profit agency which has worked with the Preble Street Resource Center to build Florence House.

“Ideally, we would create permanent housing opportunities for everybody in the shelter and reduce the drain from the shelter system and put people in appropriate permanent housing,” added Keller. “The cost of homelessness for our communities, for our state, for our federal government is extremely high. When we can put people into appropriate housing we can reduce those costs, we can reduce those burdens.”