As caseworkers on the frontlines work with clients to get their lives on track, the Preble Street Advocacy team, our many community partners, and individuals in our programs have been busy testifying for legislation that would greatly impact our community’s ability to address the hunger and homelessness crises in our state. Here is an update on the most critical bills we’re supporting:
LD2: An Act to Address Maine’s Housing Crisis:
This bill, sponsored by Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, has gathered immense energy and support throughout the session, including from Governor Mills. If passed, it would provide funding for the 24/7 social work services that make Site-Based Housing First the solution to chronic homelessness, and allow for the creation of more Site-Based Housing First programs throughout the state of Maine. After a hearing in early April as well as a work session, the Housing Committee is still mulling over the fine details of this bill. We are optimistic that this bill will be passed, securing Housing First as a major piece of the solution to chronic homelessness in Maine.
“My brother, Brian, has been a resident at Logan Place (a Site-Based Housing First program) in Portland for the past 4 years. Prior to that, he spent several homeless years on the streets of the city of Portland. During his period of homelessness, I recall driving the streets at different times of the day and night (particularly in the cold, winter months) to locate him and provide whatever support he would accept… His housing at Logan Place has stabilized him to the point that we are able to walk together most Sundays. We have occasional meals together, he has attended my children’s sporting events and we have enjoyed the Sea Dogs together in the summer months. I am grateful for the Logan Place Staff and reassured by the supportive and compassionate care they provide to him. It is comforting to know that he has a warm and welcoming place to spend his days.”
— Maura, testimony in support of LD 2
LD599: An Act to Provide Support Services for a Transitional Housing Program for Homeless Persons
This bill provides $2 million in essential operating costs for Elena’s Way Wellness Shelter. This hearing was also held in early April before the Committee on Health and Human Services. We anticipate a work session soon and hope to have an opportunity to refine the committee’s understanding of the unique model of Elena’s Way and its potential in serving the high-needs, chronically homeless population.
“We as a PATH team have witnessed the incredible outcome of this work, as our program participants have transitioned from their encampment into Elena’s Way. We are seeing folks getting meaningful rest and care that they were not receiving being unsheltered. This has shown to be impactful as we are seeing folks being able to start long-term planning around their housing that they were not able to while unsheltered in a constant state of survival. I believe that Elena’s Way will continue to bring impactful change to those most harmed by the trauma of homelessness and strengthen our communities.”
— Mary, The Opportunity Alliance, in support of LD 599
LD1612: An Act to Support Local Food Systems and Agriculture
We garnered wonderful support for the Preble Street Food Security Hub at the public hearing last Wednesday, April 19. The bill will provide one-time capital funding, allowing the Food Security Hub to complete its expansion and amplify its service across the state of Maine. Once complete, the Food Security Hub will be able to produce 10,000 meals per day and distribute food from Kittery to Caribou. At the work session on April 26, we partnered with Good Shepherd Food Bank to provide the committee with more detailed information on funding structure and the economic boost to Maine farmers, and we’re feeling confident that the committee will vote “Ought to Pass.”
“What I see and participate in, should and can be the prototype for programs dedicated to ending hunger across the nation. Everyday pallet after pallet filled with farm-fresh Maine seasonal vegetables and fruit arrive awaiting transformation into nutritional meals; meals that are designed to provide health-giving benefits. In a given week 6,000 to 10,000 pounds of fresh Maine produce arrive. What happens next is astonishing. A well-organized corps of Food Security Hub staff and volunteers take the potatoes, cabbage, carrots, onions, tomatoes, and blueberries and start cleaning, chopping, and filling pans to prepare thousands of meals a day.”
— Linda, Preble Street Volunteer
LR1781: An Act to Establish the Homeless Substance Use Disorder Service Program
Presented as an emergency bill and sponsored by Representative Drew Gattine, this piece of legislation will continue and modify the Homeless Opioid User Service Engagement (H.O.U.S.E) program — a collaboration between Greater Portland Health and Preble Street that provides substance use treatment, case management, housing, and other support to people who are experiencing homelessness alongside substance use disorder. With modifications informed by suggestions from GPH and Preble Street, this program will run as another pilot, which will have to be reconsidered for permanent funding at a later date. The rebranding of the program allows individuals experiencing other kinds of substance use disorders outside of or in addition to opioids to participate. We’ll keep you posted when this bill goes before committee!
While the bills above have been our main priorities, we have testified on a variety of other bills this session pertaining to housing, expansion of healthcare and civil legal services, evictions, General Assistance, SNAP, and more.
Want to lend your voice to our advocacy efforts? Sign up for Advocacy Alerts!
The Portland City Council is taking public comment about encampment sweeps at their meeting this Tuesday, September 26, at 5pm. Please attend and make your voices heard, OR email them before September 25 at 12pm to ensure your comments are included in their packets! Last week, Preble Street shared our recommendations for action steps on how to solve
Portland, Maine, has a unique opportunity to drastically decrease encampment and unsheltered numbers with the opening of the new Riverside shelter and its 179 new beds. Read Preble Street’s seven action steps to address this public health, housing, and shelter crisis.
Portland is facing an unprecedented crisis in unsheltered homelessness, and encampment sweeps do not solve the problem. Instead, these sweeps traumatize the already vulnerable people living in these encampments and create another spike in needed items like tents and clothing as bulldozers and trash trucks take away their few possessions. There have not been nearly