Homeless advocates, Portland city officials fight back

PORTLAND, Maine -Portland city leaders and advocates for the homeless are fighting back saying, "There’s another side of the story."

On Friday, city leaders and homeless advocates told their side of the story after the LePage administration called the mayor and others irresponsible when it comes to doling out general assistance funds.

This after a state audit led to accusations of mismanagement when it comes to doling out general assistance to the people in Portland.

The audit showed 13 of the 30 people staying at a Portland shelter, and each had more than $20,000 in the bank.

The state says the city is inappropriately billing the taxpayers $20-$30 per mat, per night.

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan was the one who came under attack after that state audit.

Brennan and advocates for the homeless say the LePage administration is twisting the facts.

"Who wants this? Who chooses this? And is someone really getting away with something by getting this mat to sleep on? How in God’s green earth could offering this meager service be considered too generous," said Mark Swan, with Preble Street Resource.

Swan who runs the city’s homeless shelter says all of them have serious, untreated mental illness.

"I’m certain some of them didn’t even know they had money or because of their psychosis they were unwilling or unable to use any of it," Swan said.

Brennan said they conduct financial background checks on those who receive general assistance, but says it’s not required for those who spend a night at a shelter.

He says he reached out to the governor to set up a meeting.

"I thought it was urgent that we meet, the governor and the commissioner, the first date they gave me was the end of March," Brennan said.

LePage issued the following statement Friday: "The city of Portland knew these people had this money in the bank but they decided to bill the taxpayers anyway for years worth of welfare reimbursement. When municipalities set priorities that unfairly burden Maine property taxpayers, it’s hard to have sympathy for them."