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May 21, 2024

Apartment residents question eviction by Travis Mills Foundation

building in background with lawn and sign in foreground Photo / Courtesy, Travis Mills Foundation With the purchase of Derby Estates, across the road from the foundation’s main campus, the plan is to expand the Warrior PATHH program, which assists veterans and first responders.

In response to a story by Mainebiz last week about the Travis Mills Foundation's acquisition of the Derby Estates apartment complex in Rome, Mainebiz received social media comments and emails from tenants saying that they will be evicted in April 2025. 

The Derby Estates complex consists of two buildings on 8.2 acres. Despite not being listed on the market, the property was sold for an undisclosed price on April 5. The apartments house 12 families. 

In an interview, one of the Derby Estate tenants shared what the year will look like as he faces the daunting task of finding a home for his family in a rural area.

The tenant, Shamus LaPerriere, told Mainebiz that he didn’t know the building had been sold until he went to pay April’s rent.

A few days after paying his rent, he received an eviction letter from the Travis Mills Foundation, saying that the nonprofit had bought the building and that the current tenants had until April 30, 2025, to find new housing. 

The letter, forwarded to Mainebiz, states that the foundation will honor current lease agreements and manage Derby Estates as a rental property until the end of April 2025. 

“We knew that the property was possibly going up for sale because our original landlord contacted us and said that there were going to be people evaluating the property,” said LaPerriere. ”In the middle of March, people arrived here and went in and out of the apartments. Every time we asked what was happening, we were told it was being evaluated. No one gave us a clear answer on what was happening and then suddenly it stopped.

"It is infuriating to see someone get a pat on the back for one part, but not mention the fact that in the process it is displacing so many people," he continued.

Maine requires a 30-day notice of eviction, according to Pine Tree Legal Assistance.

Current residents

LaPerriere said that during the building evaluation, he didn’t think the tenants would be evicted.

LaPerriere, his wife, and his two sons moved into the building in 2016 after having difficulty finding an affordable apartment or home in the area. His oldest son is now in the military. His youngest son is a high school junior, which has caused another issue for the family, fearing it will have to move the younger son to a new school district. 

The family lives paycheck-to-paycheck, LaPerriere said. The family pays $995 in monthly rate. They don’t have the means to afford the first and last months' rent of a new apartment or a down payment for a new house.

“Although we have been given until next April to find new residency, we are, as I'm sure you are aware, in a housing crisis,” said LaPerriere. “Many of the people living here are low-income and even if they were able to find a new home by then, they would not have the financial means to do so."

LaPerriere said he isn’t sure what his next steps will be and has been reviewing his family's finances to see where they can make some budget cuts. After monthly expenses, the family has $95 left over, he said.  

“We are looking to purchase a home, but we won’t be able to save up. I looked up the average deposit for a home, which is $10,000,” said LaPerriere. “There is no way we can do that. We have gone through our budget three times since we found out about this, trying to shave things off and make sure we have the money and we can’t manage it. There is nothing in the area we have looked all over and we can’t afford anything right now.

“This whole situation is kind of overwhelming for us. When you're in a situation like this, it is hard to pinpoint exactly how you feel,” he continued. “We are still in shock right now. We were hoping to stay here until our son graduated from school. As a parent, the one thing that is more concerning than having a roof over your head is to ensure your child can stay with his friends until graduation and not be uprooted.

"So, not only are we losing a home without knowing where we are going to go, but we are also uprooting our son to face who knows what. I don’t know what we are going to do.”

A response from the foundation

In response, the Travis Mills Foundation said it understands the concerns of the tenants and is working to support them in various ways. 

“The Travis Mills Foundation understands the concerns of tenants and the general public regarding the redevelopment of the Derby Estates property,” said Heather Hemphill, executive director of the Travis Mills Foundation. “Staff have been working privately with tenants who reside in the apartments on the property to support them in various ways. Additionally, the foundation has given tenants a full year’s notice before significant changes to the property will occur.

“While Derby Estates wasn’t listed for sale, the Foundation was approached about acquiring it and at that time, Travis Mills Foundation negotiated the purchase of the property in an effort to grow its Warrior PATHH Program,” she continued. “Warrior PATHH — Progressive & Alternative Training for Helping Heroes — is the nation’s first-ever program designed to cultivate and facilitate Post-Traumatic Growth in combat veterans and first responders. The expansion will make a significant impact on the Foundation’s ability to serve our nation’s heroes and enable them to transform times of deep struggle into profound strength and growth.”

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