Portland (WGME) – Thousands of Mainers don’t have a place to call home at night. In the winter months many of them turn to emergency shelters, but some of them don’t. It’s hard to imagine but some people are braving the harshest elements Mother Nature has to offer and are sleeping outside.
“We find evidence of people who are living unsheltered living in tents, living under the bridge, living in the woods just trying to make an existence,” said Bill Burney, the HUD Maine Field Office director.
Every year in January the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the homeless population be counted, during what they call the “Point in Time Count.” This helps identify trends and locate the people who are using shelters and sleeping outside. In last year’s count 1,134 people were homeless in Maine which is down slightly from 2015.
In the same count the number of people living outside had increased. On a cold night in January when the temperatures barely made it above 20 degrees, 120 people were sleeping outside and those are only the people we knew about.
There are plenty more who go uncounted like Ally Boucher. She’s 20 years old and has been homeless since she was 17. She said she prefers camping to sleeping in the shelters. She’s in recovery and tries to avoid being around the pervasive drug use in the homeless community.
“We don’t do any drugs, we don’t do any alcohol,” she said.
Everything she owns is inside the tent – clothing, books, food, blankets. She said they’re saving items for a permanent living situation they hope will become a reality.