Portland officials defend aid for homeless, vow to address concerns

… Mark Swann, executive director of the nonprofit Preble Street, which provides many services to Portland’s homeless community, said a recent survey of the shelter system’s 30 longest-term residents found that all 30 "had serious and persistent mental illness." Swann said shelters in Maine have become de facto mental health institutions and are "overflowing with people who absolutely should not be there … because it is inhumane that our mental health system is unavailable and inaccessible to them."

Five nonprofit agencies have stopped providing shelters in Portland during the past decade because of funding uncertainty, Swann said, and those clients inevitably ended up in the remaining shelters. Swann agreed that General Assistance is the wrong mechanism for funding emergency homeless shelters but added there are few other funding sources available.

"Funding for emergency shelters in this state has not been thoughtfully discussed or debated for over 25 years," Swann said …

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