Maine gubernatorial candidates put the focus on homeless

PORTLAND – A group of gubernatorial candidates fielded questions on issues centering on homelessness Tuesday during a forum at the Preble Street social service agency.

About 25 people, most of them homeless, attended the forum, which was sponsored by the Homeless Voices for Justice group. The candidates who attended were Democrat Libby Mitchell and independent Shawn Moody, along with write-in candidates Beverly Cooper-Pete and Ed Braley of Portland, who is homeless. Independent candidate Eliot Cutler sent a representative.

Roger Brown asked candidates about their plans to help homeless veterans, such as himself. He said most homeless veterans are from the Vietnam era, like him, and their average age is now in the 60s.

"I’m 64 — I don’t need to be out here," said Brown.

Cooper-Pete said government should have more conversations with people like Brown, to find out more about what they need, what they expect from services.

"Shame on us for allowing people like you to be homeless," she said. "If one of us are hurting, all of us are."

Mitchell noted that her husband is a retired Marine, and said that as governor, she would work with the federal government to show officials who lead national programs that some veterans have slipped through the cracks and must be provided for.

"Veterans are special," said Mitchell. "They’ve done things others haven’t done."

Asked by the moderator, Marcia Frank, what the candidates would do to end homelessness, Braley brought up one idea several times, to convert all state-owned housing to single-bedroom apartments, so more people could have homes.

Moody said the reality is that Maine will never end homelessness, but it could seriously decrease its number of homeless people.

He said he would change welfare to "workfare," paying people for work done to benefit the state. And he said he would support efforts to get at the causes of homelessness, such as increasing outreach in community outpatient clinics.

Mitchell said she has been working for 30 years in state government on programs for the homeless.

"I walk the walk," she said.

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: