Portland seeing unprecedented numbers of homeless seeking shelter

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER)Officials in Portland say they are seeing some troubling numbers when it comes to homelessness in the city.

At Oxford Street shelter the beds are empty during the day. But several hours before it opens for the night, people will begin lining up in hopes of getting one of the mats or cots inside.

In June, for the first time ever in the city, the number of people seeking shelter surpassed 400. There’s nothing to indicate that the situation will ease anytime soon. That has the city opening up it’s General Assistance office at night, where people are sleeping in chairs.

"We’re at capacity at our shelters. We’re at capacity with our overflow shelters, and I’m deeply disturbed with the numbers. We’re looking for some short term solutions," said Mayor Michael Brennan.

There is no one thing driving those numbers. The shelters are serving more people with mental illness and substance abuse problems. Poverty and the slow economy are contributing as well. City officials say temporary funding from the President’s economic stimulus package dried up, and that’s also having an impact.