Faith-based transitional home eyed for Montville

Giant yard sale planned June 15 to help build driveway
By Fran Gonzalez | Jun 04, 2019
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Elevation drawings show a three-level building. The top floor would accommodate 10 bedrooms and two baths; first floor would have a kitchen, office and living room; and walkout basement would contain a staff family apartment.

Montville — Peter Sheff is on a mission. The Waldo County treasurer and pastor of Abundant Grace Ministries in Searsmont has a vision to build a sustainable, transitional faith-based housing program on a wooded 2-acre corner of his 52-acre property on Route 220.

So far, Plymouth Engineering has donated its time in drawing up the structure elevations, and with the help of Brian Sites and Robyn Goff of Volunteers of America, Sheff in the near future will be submitting an application for a grant to fund his endeavor. He estimates he will need "a little under $1 million to make it happen."

The 6,000-square-foot house will have 10 bedrooms on the top floor, a kitchen, a private counseling room and living area on the first floor, and a staff family apartment located in the walkout daylight basement.

"I foresee a mature couple," Sheff said, living there and supervising operations.

"We of course are trusting the Lord to make this happen," Sheff said, "but a grant would be nice."

Working with InSource Renewables of Pittsfield in conjunction with Backyard Buildings in Unity, Sheff would like to make the transitional home sustainable with the help of solar power. He has hired InSource before to produce a shed outfitted with solar panels at his log home on the other side of the property, which he says drops his electric bill to $11 a month in winter.

"We are getting estimates right now and will be submitting our paperwork to Brian at VOA," Sheff said. He said the grant process takes a while and the funds are not disbursed until the end of 2020.

"This is probably a spring 2021 project, assuming we get the funds that we need to begin," he said.

Sheff recently learned that he will not have to take the project to the Planning Board. In a May 31 email message, Chairman Peter Kassen said Maine Municipal Association's legal department has advised that the Site Plan Review (town ordinance) does not apply, "so there is no apparent requirement for this project to be presented formally to the Planning Board." Kassen noted there are state codes that do apply.

For the immediate future, Sheff is planning a huge yard sale to drum up some seed money to possibly pay for putting in a driveway. The event is planned for Saturday, June 15, from 8 a.m. to noon at Fountain Storage on Route 3 in Liberty.

Right now, Sheff has a 50-foot box trailer in his yard and plans to move it to the new house location, once the driveway is in, to store items for the program.

"As word gets out, people may want to make contributions of items that they think we could use," he said, throwing out the suggestion, "We will need 10 beds."

Sheff has several strategies for making the transitional housing beneficial for recovering addicts and felons. He would like to offer housing for six to 12 months at a time, and offer job-finding courses to residents.

"Give them a foundation and teach them how to be a good husband and a good father," he said, and help them integrate back into society. It would be a Bible-based program, he said, but clients would not have to believe in the Bible to come.

Sheff said he would teach residents how to reconcile with family members who may have disowned them after being incarcerated, and devise courses to help find out what really motivates them. The program ideally would have a van, he said, to be able to transport residents to medical, mental health and counseling appointments.

A 7-acre field behind Sheff's house will be put to use as a sustainable farm therapy of sorts, where residents could volunteer to work growing vegetables and tending to animals. The idea, he said, would be to grow most of their own food.

The home would also act as a small business lender, Sheff said, with the creation of a micro loan fund, "where we can set these guys up for business."

Perhaps one person dreams of being a carpenter, but lacks $5,000 to purchase the tools needed; the fund would support these endeavors. Sheff said the program could also collaborate with vocational training programs like the one VOA started, teaching inmates skills while in jail, to be prepared once they get out.

He admits he is not sure, once the house is built and the programs are in place, how to sustain the initiative; possibly with donations and continuing grants, he said.

"The sheriff told me that when the guys are getting close to getting out of prison, they start getting nervous, because they don't want to go back to where they were before," Sheff said.

They need to find a job and with the added stigma of having been incarcerated, it is not easy. "So how do you adjust back into society when all you've known is drugs and jail?" Sheff asked. "It's a tough thing.

"We want to offer them a place to stay for six months or a year; we're going to help them find a job they are suited for; we're going to provide transportation; and it's not going to cost them any money.

"It's a totally charitable thing we want to do here," Sheff said.

"Meeting the Reentry guys through the No Greater Love food pantry we had at our church, I really got to know them," Sheff said. "And I realized, but for the grace of God, there go I," recognizing others' misfortune could be one's own.

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