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Bangor hotel could continue to operate as shelter past September

The Ramada Inn will be used as an emergency shelter until Sep. 30.
It’s still up in the air as to whether the Ramada Inn on Odlin Road in Bangor will continue to...
It’s still up in the air as to whether the Ramada Inn on Odlin Road in Bangor will continue to be used as an emergency shelter after September 30th.(WABI)
Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 4:13 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - It’s still up in the air as to whether the Ramada Inn on Odlin Road in Bangor will continue to be used as an emergency shelter after September 30th.

Funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency runs out on that date.

The hotel has been closed to the public during the pandemic and operating as an extension of the Hope House, a homeless shelter in Bangor.

“We run between 55 to 60 people a night at the Ramada and that includes, sometimes, one to five people who are in our COVID-19 quarantine isolation wing,” said Penobscot Community Health Care director, Lori Dwyer.

PCHC runs the shelter.

Dwyer says each person living there has their own room, allowing them the privacy they may need to receive services.

Support staff is on hand 24-hours a day.

“We offer housing navigation services. We offer connection to primary care and to recovery services for people experiencing substance-use disorder. We offer mental health counseling services. There’s a lot of either on-site services or ways we can connect people to services,” said Dwyer.

With those services coming to an end at that location in September, PCHC tells WABI they are discussing a range of options with the city as to what could happen to residents there after September 30th.

Bangor Assistant City Manager Courtney O’Donnell says they met with PCHC last week and received a draft plan.

She says they’re working with PCHC to address how to shift and adapt moving forward with regard to the Ramada Inn.

Her understanding is that PCHC would like to continue to use that property after the September deadline.

While ultimately those decisions are up to PCHC, O’Donnell says they have alerted them to a zoning issue at 356 Odlin Road.

“It would need to go through the zoning process to allow the Ramada to be used as an emergency shelter and that typically takes six to eight weeks,” O’Donnell explained. “It would go through planning board and ultimately the city council and certainly public notification of that would be made.”

Neighboring business and property owners would get their say, too. Mike Jillson owns Fielder’s Choice next door to the Ramada Inn.

In July 2020, he told WABI about problems on his property; theft and trespassing being the main issues.

Fast forward to August 2021, and he says those issues continue.

“We’ve been the victim of three burglaries since this all started,” said Jillson. “I think we’ve had to issue two or three “no trespass” orders in the past three weeks alone, maybe one a week. We’re not equipped to deal with these people that hear voices. They talk to themselves. Our staff is afraid of them. The customers are afraid. It’s an unexpected problem that we’ve certainly didn’t expect to be dealing with when we came to Bangor.”

A fire on his property on Easter Sunday set him back for weeks.

Court documents show the man accused of setting the fire was staying at the Ramada at the time.

Those documents also say surveillance video from the Ramada was not immediately turned over to the police.

PCHC’s legal counsel told WABI in April because the emergency shelter is licensed by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services as a substance use disorder program, federal law puts significant restrictions on how information can be disclosed.

In Jillson’s mind, it was grossly negligent of PCHC to allow the man to remain on the property.

“PCHC knew that they had a suspect in their property. They had access to the video, and they allowed that person to stay there that night. That person slept in that hotel the night after committing an arson on Easter Sunday. To me, that’s the most egregious thing that’s happened this entire year,” he said.

Jillson says no one reached out to him following the fire, and he’s been left in the dark regarding PCHC’s plans.

“This idea that we’re going to take a hotel and turn it into a homeless shelter seems like the most misguided idea ever. I’ve tried to be understanding. I know that all of these businesses are affected, and I know people are worried about the perception, but I’m not. I know that when the truth is on my side, if you speak the truth, you have nothing to run from, and I don’t,” he said.

PCHC tells us they will be publicly announcing their plans as soon as they’re finalized.

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