Portland volunteers conduct homeless survey

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Volunteers were out trudging knee-deep in snow, searching for Portland’s homeless Wednesday night.

It’s for the annual Point In Time Survey for the U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development. The data helps HUD allocate funding and resources to communities across the country.

Homeless staying at shelters are easy to account for. In order to capture the entire homeless population, volunteers are needed to search the city for people staying on the streets.

Last year, the Portland Point In Time survey found 10 “unsheltered” homeless. This year, the searchers did not find anyone.

“That’s a good thing,” said Oxford Street Shelter Director Rob Parritt. “We want folks in our shelters and not outside.”

But Preble Street Associate Director Jon Bradley says he knows there are people who insist on sleeping outside, even in a blizzard. Bradley says people come in to the soup kitchen for a hot meal, but refuse to stay the night, saying they have the skills to survive outside.

Maine’s homeless population has fluctuated. From 2010 to 2014, Maine has had a 14.6 percent increase in homelessness, according to the City of Portland. Comparing 2014 to 2013, the homeless population has decreased 9.6 percent.

The City of Portland implemented a seven-point-plan to address homelessness in 2011. Portland Mayor Michael Brennan says there have been many success stories, but it’s discouraging to see how many people are still struggling.

“All these years later to not have affordable housing, safe housing for everybody in the city of Portland is a community failure, it’s a state failure, and it’s a national failure,” said Brennan.