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MaineHousing: Better Data Collection Can Help Reduce Homelessness


Thursday, May 19, 2022   

Data from Maine's annual Point in Time homelessness survey has been released, showing 4,411 individuals were experiencing homelessness on Jan. 25 of this year, a sharp increase from the count the previous year.

Dan Brennan, director of the Maine State Housing Authority, acknowledged while there may have been an increase in people experiencing homelessness, the number also reflects a change in formula for the count.

It includes those in transitional housing, as well as those housed in motels and hotels through the federally funded rent relief program.

He said the more accurate data collection becomes, the better Maine will be able to tackle homelessness.

"We want homelessness to be as rare as possible," Brennan asserted. "We know that things are going to happen in life that cause people to lose their homes or to fall out of safe, stable housing. That's going to happen. But the issue is how long does someone remain in that situation?"

Nearly half of households who were counted as experiencing homelessness 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 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 those areas and in more rural parts of Maine, so that people experiencing homelessness can at least stay in their own community," Brennan urged.

He noted it is one reason why Maine Housing 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 with services.

"Right now, we're in an environment where the availability of affordable housing units is very sparse," Brennan emphasized. "That's been a real challenge. But if we can get these hubs up and running and working and more robust than they historically have been, they will be a help to the homeless shelters that are in those particular areas."

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