Ania Chandler lifts a bag of onions in Portland on Saturday Feb. 20, 2021 while working with a dozen other volunteers at Presente Maine's food distribution operation in Lewiston. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The Lewiston City Council held a hearing to plan for the city’s first ever 24/7 homeless shelter and resource center Tuesday night.

The center would have 24 beds and provide meals, medical intervention and mental health services. The money to build it comes from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“Our operational costs are going to be covered by ESHAP funding, which is through Maine Housing, it’s federal funding as well,” Temporary Homeless and Quarantine Programs Director Megan Parks said. “We have had a lot of community partners who’ve agreed to make donations and then we’re going to be hiring a grant writer.”

Other councilors on the board shared the same concerns.

“I think this budget is unreasonable,” Council President K. Lee Clement said. “I don’t think you’re going to do it nowhere near the cost you proposed.”

“It would be an absolute shame to get a quarter of the way through and just run out of money,” Ward 4 Councilor Rick LaChapelle said. “I do believe this is a statewide issue and should be addressed at a state level.”

“I don’t have a problem with a hand up, it’s when you come back every week for the next 50 years expecting a hand up,” Ward 2 Councilor Robert McCarthy said.

Only one councilor spoke in full support of the shelter.

“It’s inhumane what we’re doing now, and we need to do something, and I feel like this is a good first step,” Ward 3 Councilor Scott Harriman said.

Tuesday night’s meeting was a workshop, and no decision was made. The city council will vote to approve or disapprove the proposal in a meeting in the next couple of weeks.