Volunteers of America Northern New England has almost completed renovations to the duplex it bought at 80 High St. to house people who struggle with mental illness or are cognitively impaired.

Harbor Place, the building's name, will house a program for people with mental illness and cognitive disabilities, who will be separated on different sides of the building, Vice President of Business Development Brian Sites said. There will be a maximum of six individuals in each program, for a total of 12 people living on the property.

He said the programs will benefit the city, beyond housing people, by adding jobs to the area. “We really enjoy opening up these programs because it really does add to the local economy,” he said. “… A lot of that staff will be coming from Belfast and around the local area.”

The building has been vacant for several years, he said. Volunteers of America replaced the roof, removed mold and fixed structural defects. It also made cosmetic renovations to create open spaces for group meetings.

There are two efficiency apartments on the third floor not associated with the programs. Sites said he is unsure what the organization will use the space for at this time.

The renovations add up to about $900,000, Sites said. The funding came from a combination of private donations, state subsidy reimbursements and a community block grant, Vice President of External Relations Michael Coon said.

State subsidies do not cover costs associated with hiring and training staff, so the organization has to raise funds for those expenses.

The building was built as a duplex in 1915 by a court clerk named Herman Coombs, according to the Belfast Historical Society and Museum. In recent years it was owned by the Maine State Housing Authority, and the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development before that.

Volunteers of America also runs the elderly living facility Edward J. Reynolds House and the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center, which helps incarcerated men build skills to help them stay out of the justice system after they are released.

The organization is waiting until January 2021 before it hires staff for the two programs and starts accepting applicants, Sites said. It will employ 24 people to keep the programs staffed 24 hours per day. Most of the positions will be filled locally.

Staff will have a support network among all four programs in Belfast so they can reach out for help if needed, Coon said. They hope that all local Volunteers of America employees will work together.

Local residents have embraced the project and the services the program will offer to the community, Sites said. “The local government and neighborhood has been really supportive of all of our effort this far and it’s just a great place for us,” he said.

Volunteers of America is currently accepting gently used furniture donations such as dressers, kitchen and bedding items, lamps and living room furniture. Financial donations are accepted through its website, voanne.org, with a note stating that the donation is to be used specifically for the property.