“There’s been a lot of social services throughout the state of Maine that have been working collaboratively, together, to really make a dent and helping people out of homelessness,” Preble Street Deputy Director Donna Yellen said.
She says that despite the decrease in people experiencing homelessness, there is a lot of work that needs to be done.
“This is a problem that is far from over, in fact, we’re nervous that this is changing [for the worse],” Yellen said.
She says that driving to work, there are more people visibly homeless on the streets than she’s ever seen before.
“Those are our brothers and sisters, and they deserve better than huddling in the doorway in their jackets,” Yellen said. “Every night that it’s cold like it is right now, some of these vulnerable people, who have a lot of mental health needs, will not make it through the night.”
Along with the resources listed in this article, please visit LandlordsHelp.org to see how you can partner to give a veteran a home.
The Brunswick community said goodbye to a dear friend last week. As most of you have already read, Russell Williams died alone under the Federal Street bridge in downtown Brunswick on November 23rd. Last Thursday over 100 people attended the Celebration of Life at The Gathering Place in Russell’s honor. Many shared wonderful memories, sang songs, and enjoyed an opportunity to say goodbye.
The loss of Russell to the Gathering Place is profound and I find myself wondering what next? How do we honor his memory? One way is to shine a light on the fact that Rusell was a veteran. Many people mistakenly believe that since there is a VA and other government agencies that are tasked with helping homeless veterans that there is no pressing need to do more, but this is completely false. Veterans deserve to be made whole, and to have a place to call home that is their own.
Russell was lucky to have received the support of the VA resources from Preble Street Veteran Housing Services and was issued a voucher. However, those 60 days came and went with no success of finding housing. The supply of available affordable housing is scarce and the emergency shelter system is maxed out as well. The waiting lists for Brunswick Housing Authority property is years long and there are few private landlords available to help. This left Russell with nowhere to go.
So far this year 450 veterans and their families have been served at Preble Street, according to Executive Director Mark Swann. Twenty-five of those veterans entered the shelter system across the state due to homelessness.
Preble Street, with the help of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, and Easterseals Maine are creating a system to help house veterans within 90 days of being identified as homeless. Support systems will also be in place for the vets and landlords.
…with housing first, people are given a safe, stable place to live and offered support, whether its for substance use disorder, mental illness, physical health or employment training.
“We really feel housing is itself therapeutic,” said Hillary Colcord, the director of Huston Commons, a housing-first facility in Portland.
Portland has three separate developments dedicated to housing the long-term homeless: Logan Place, Florence House, and Huston Commons. Each one was built by Avesta Housing and is staffed by the nonprofit social services agency Preble Street.
“It’s pretty remarkable to see people transitioning out of survival mode, worrying day-to-day and night-to-night about where they’re going to be … and (to see) people starting to believe they’re worth getting the medical care they have not had for a long time,” said Ali Lovejoy, the senior director of residential services at Preble Street.
“Watching my father’s struggles was a painfully long goodbye. Fortunately, Logan Place gave a father and his children the chance to once again say hello.” Amanda A. Meader shares a beautiful story of how the Preble Street Housing First program touched her family.
Increased homelessness and its root causes are not unique to Portland. Despite what we hear about a strengthening economy, homelessness and hunger have exploded and many thousands of hungry, cold and ill Americans are living on streets in cities and towns across the country. And, across the country, municipalities and service providers struggle daily with unpredictable funding and increased costs as they work tirelessly to help people in their communities find shelter, food, housing, health care and hope.
The Maine Homeless Veterans Action Committee delivered its annual update on the state of veteran homelessness Wednesday.
An estimated 278 veterans became homeless last year in Maine. 192 of them were housed by local organizations.
Data was collected from emergency shelters and community volunteers to create a better understanding of who the homeless are as well as how best to get them back on their feet.
Rob Liscord of Preble Street Veterans Housing Services says Maine has come a long way over the last five years in terms of prioritizing housing homeless vets.
Refusal to expand Maine’s Medicaid program has left many homeless veterans to suffer in shelters and on the street. Maine has the fifth highest per capita population of veterans in the nation, and Medicaid is essential for veterans. Yet we have repeatedly turned our backs.
Veterans are more likely to experience homelessness than the overall population, and Medicaid is important for “veterans experiencing homelessness who have high rates of chronic health conditions, disabilities, mental health issues, and alcohol or substance use disorders,” according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation report.
Using data collected from Health Care for the Homeless projects in nine states, the report includes both states that expanded their Medicaid programs and those that didn’t, and the numbers are striking. In those states that expanded Medicaid, 55 percent of homeless veterans served were covered by Medicaid, compared with only 5 percent in nonexpansion states.
Some members of Portland’s homeless population now have a place to call home.
Preble Street officially opened the third complex of its Housing First initiative: Houston Commons, an apartment complex designed to help the chronically homeless by providing a permanent place for them to live. Huston Commons houses 30 people who have been living on the streets of the city for years.
The building was paid for through a tax credit, it’s staffing and social work is paid for through private grants- Preble Street Resource Center is a non-profit.
Avesta Housing and Preble Street have opened Portland’s third “housing first” program, Huston Commons, which is now home to 30 formerly homeless individuals with chronic health challenges.
Located near Morrill’s Corner at 72 Bishop St. in Portland, Huston Commons was named for Steve Huston, a former Preble Street employee who experienced and overcame homelessness and who was an eloquent and forceful advocate for housing first. “We all deserve the dignity of … a home,” he once said.