Portland resource center lands $1.7 million in federal aid to help homeless veterans

PORTLAND, Maine – The Preble Street Resource Center will receive almost $1.7 million in federal funding to work with homeless veterans and veterans at risk of becoming homeless, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree announced Thursday.

The federal funding award is the largest ever received by the organization, which has been providing services to homeless people and others in need of assistance since 1975, according to Preble Street Executive Director Mark Swann.

"The problem of homeless veterans is a national shame," Pingree, a Democrat who represents Maine’s 1st U.S. House District, said in a release announcing the funding. "These men and women have served our country, they have risked their lives and for them to end up living on the street is unacceptable. Preble Street has done great work in helping veterans find housing and in helping those that are at risk of being homeless. This federal funding is going to go a long way toward helping veterans and their families keep a roof over their heads."

The funding derives from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Supporting Services for Veteran Families Program. Preble Street will use the money to hire caseworkers and housing counselors, the release states. In addition to helping veterans find permanent housing, the new staff also will help them with job searches.

"This is going to make a huge difference in the work we are doing with veterans," Swann said in the release. "We’ve been doing this work in southern Maine but this grant means we are going to be able to expand to a statewide presence by adding offices in Lewiston and Bangor."

An agency that provides services to veterans in Hancock and Washington counties also will receive new funding from the VA’s Supporting Services for Veteran Families Program, according to a release from U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat who represents Maine’s 2nd U.S. House District. Washington Hancock Community Agency will receive approximately $430,000 of a $995,000 multi-state grant to serve veterans in Hancock and Washington counties, according to Michaud.

"This important program has made a big difference in helping veteran families stay in safe and stable situations, and I’m pleased this funding has been released to help Maine’s veterans," Michaud said in a prepared statement.

A third Supporting Services for Veteran Families grant – $2 million to Massachusetts-based Veterans Inc. – could benefit Maine veterans because it is earmarked for services to veterans throughout New England, Michaud said.

A task force report released in 2012 showed that the Portland area could save more than $3 million annually in shelter and emergency aid costs by improving services for people who lack permanent housing.