To the Editor:
With all the letters that have appeared in this newspaper, and after a neighborhood meeting and two board meetings since that meeting, it is time for the community to know the status of the Stepping Stone Housing project at Blue Haven and to clear up a few misconceptions.
This is a work in progress as we take our time to develop a much needed project in the Damariscotta/ Newcastle area.
The Ecumenical Food Pantry is not part of this project. We had entertained the thought of having space to house the food pantry in the event they decided to move to find more space for their ministry. Stepping Stone Housing is totally separate from the food pantry, which is doing wonderful work in feeding people who live below the poverty line.
Since talking with the neighbors we have determined that there would be too much traffic and not enough parking to house the food pantry at Blue Haven.
We have also decided to downsize the building to be constructed on the property after the house is taken down. The Andrews house had many problems including structural problems and would not have met the current codes, so it needed to come down. The new construction will be energy efficient and handicapped accessible.
Instead of the original plan of six units, we will be constructing a duplex. Details are yet to come on size and layout of the building.
Our first priority is to improve the function and appearance of existing housing and make better use of the site. Stepping Stone Housing also intends to provide for the safe operation of these units with Carbon Monoxide and smoke monitors in all units, and improved parking.
The second priority is to ensure that residents will occupy units on a transitional basis and only until permanent affordable housing can be located for them. We will not be set up to deal with the mentally ill or with people with substance abuse issues, although we acknowledge there is great need in those areas as well.
Our third priority is to make available counseling and case management resources that can enable residents to make changes in their lives and take steps toward a sustainable future.
Stepping Stone is not a homeless shelter. It is a place where people can get a “step up” and help to live a better life for themselves and their families.
Secretary of Stepping Stone Housing, Inc.
Pastor of Water of Life Lutheran Church