Data from Maine’s annual one-time homelessness survey has been released, showing that 4,411 people were homeless on January 25 of this year, a sharp increase from the number the previous year.
Dan Brennan, director of the Maine State Housing Authority, acknowledged that while there may have been an increase in the number of homeless people, the number also reflects a change in the formula for the count.
It includes people living in transitional housing, as well as those housed in motels and hotels under the federally funded rent relief program.
He said the more accurate the data collection, the better Maine will be able to address homelessness.
“We want homelessness to be as rare as possible,” Brennan said. “We know things are going to happen in life that will cause people to lose their homes or not find safe and stable accommodation. It will happen. But the question is, how long does someone stay in this situation? »
Nearly half of households that were counted as homeless have at least one child, and nearly 40% are black, brown, or Indigenous, while less than 10% of Maine’s overall population identifies as BIPOC.
Brennan added that homelessness in Maine is largely concentrated in urban centers, such as Portland and Bangor.
“What we need to do is help support the communities that are around these areas and in the more rural parts of Maine, so that people who are homeless can at least stay in their own community,” Brennan urged. .
He noted that’s one of the reasons MaineHousing has partnered with an organization called Community Solutions, to improve data collection and collaboration. They are creating what they call regional hubs, each with a hub coordinator who can help people in the area connect to services.
“Right now, we’re in an environment where the availability of affordable housing is very scarce,” Brennan said. “It was a real challenge. But if we can make these centers operational and functional and more robust than they have been in the past, they will help the homeless shelters that are in these particular areas.
Photo: A homeless encampment erected on the steps of Portland City Hall in the spring of 2020. | Dan Neumann, Lighthouse