Topic: Teen Services

Portland homeless shelters reach capacity because of bitter weather

… Donna Yellen, chief program officer for Preble Street, said the agency’s Joe Kreisler Teen Center reached capacity Wednesday night. The center has 24 beds. Yellen said the staff brought in cots to accommodate the overflow.

Florence House on Valley Street is a 40-bed shelter for women. When it reaches capacity, women are sent to the Oxford Street Shelter. Florence House exceeded its capacity Wednesday night, according to Yellen.

Yellen said the overflow area at Preble Street would be full Thursday night. During the day, Preble Street “was packed, the need is so great.” Preble Street serves three meals a day to the city’s homeless population.

“Homelessness, especially in these weather conditions, is life-threatening,” Yellen said …

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Maine Calling: Finding Solutions to Homelessness

Despite discouraging news headlines about homelessness, some innovative Maine organizations have had meaningful success in reducing homelessness and improving the lives of the homeless population. We’ll learn about these solutions and what it would take to expand them.

Guests: Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street in Portland

Stephanie Primm, executive director of Hospitality House in Rockland

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Invisible homelessness: Maine teens on the streets

(NEWS CENTER) — Maine is at the heart of a national study that many will find hard to believe.

More than 2,000 young people in Maine have no home and find themselves scrambling for shelter, food and respect.

Even during the harshest of Maine’s winter months, there are thousands who live outside—under bridges, in the woods, in storage units, in cars, couch surfing. Even harder to believe is the age: 10- to 24-year-olds.

“I was struggling my whole life so it’s normal for me to run into people or to know people who are in those situations. So, I don’t see it as, ‘oh, Maine, there are no issues like that here.’ There are a ton. There is a lot going on under the radar,” said Natachia, who is 20 and pregnant. “My family has had a lot of struggling in their life so I never came from people who either were rich or not struggling or good to go with everything,” she explained.

Natachia recently checked into Hospitality House in Rockland. The Knox County shelter is designed to help young families. At Hospitality, she is receiving services she and her soon to be born baby need: access to healthcare, transportation and the opportunity to speak with professionals.

“I’ve been homeless off and on since I was 16-years-old, but even before then I can never really recall a time in my life where I had a very stable living environment,” shared Zachariah, from his Rumford apartment.

He has moved more than he can count, most often staying with family or friends on the couch, also known as couch surfing. When that’s not available, some young people head outside: in the woods,under a bridge, in a car.

Karen, who has three young daughters, understands that situation.

“For probably seven years, I was bouncing between family and friends and car and what not,” Karen said.

She, Zachariah and Natachia are all part of a growing problem in Maine: youth homelessness.

“It is a huge problem. Much bigger than we knew,” explained Jon Bradley, associate director of Preble Street, which runs the Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter in Portland.

Bradley says desperation has pushed an alarming number of the young and homeless to make unsafe choices.

“The kids who are what we would call trafficking, in terms of sex trafficking, trading a bed, you know, for a place to stay for sex. And we’ve seen much more of that over the years than we used to,” Bradley shared.

In southern Maine last year, there were more than a hundred cases of sex trafficking. The youngest involved? Age 15. Nationally, a 10-year-old.

“They don’t see any hope, they don’t trust people to take care of them or to give them help,” said Bradley.

Determining who and where these young people are has prompted a national homeless teen count, and Maine figures prominently. The state of Maine is the first rural state to be examined. And so far, the numbers are telling a fairly grim story. Estimates of more than 2,000 youth—ages 12 to 24, who are homeless on any given night here in Maine. And, the number of youth at-risk for homelessness is even greater.

“We looked at both rural and urban communities across the state…we went by county, we did seven counties,” Bradley stated. “There were real differences between the kids we were seeing in our cities, where shelters are located and in the real rural areas where there are very few resources.”

In fact, the state of Maine has only three shelters dedicated to homeless youth in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor, which makes finding and helping homeless and runaway youth difficult.

“We do street outreach and engage kids. There are some 200 kids,some who we don’t see but we give them food support to, we have actually packs that include toiletries and other necessities for people on the street. That includes most of the youth, I think, in Portland.”

Bradley is working with non-profits in the seven counties, zeroing in on rural regions located several hours from youth shelters. Towns like Rumford, a struggling mill town community where jobs are scarce and resources to fund group homes, dwindling. And Rockland, dealing with a tremendous homeless issue, which belies its picturesque coastline.

“It’s a tragedy to think that in this beautiful part of our country and Maine that this is happening and it’s quite prevalent. It’s a humanitarian issue,” Stephanie Primm said.

Primm runs Hospitality House, the Knox County shelter for young families and adults. Open just over two years, the shelter has helped over 2,000 people.

“64 percent of our clients describe coming from a generational poverty scenario, so that’s often inclusive of a combination of abuse, low education or really no opportunity,” Primm continued. “They’re people who never really had a chance. It’s sad because there’s a lot of judgement of underprivileged people, of the poor. Some people use the word demonization,” she explained.

Primm and her three daughters wound up at Hospitality House after bouncing from friends’ couches to living out of a car. Now, she has an apartment and works at the shelter’s food pantry.

“It helped my confidence, it helped get paperwork and stuff done and everybody here is so nice,” Karen told us.

Many arrive at Hospitality under extreme stress—money problems, drugs and alcohol, mental illness, disease, death. They’ve been tested to the limit. Abbey and her young daughter arrived a week ago.

“I needed to be here, trying to find my own place, get everything situated on my own,” Abbey said.

There are pockets of Maine that simply have nothing in place to help the homeless, particularly the young and homeless. Still, those who do find help often face judgement and enormous hurdles.

“Without an address, you can’t get a library card, you can’t get an ID, you can’t go to the food bank and get meals, you can’t even put down an address on a job application because you don’t have an address. It’s almost as if you don’t exist,” Zachariah quietly shared.

“Our big challenge as workers and people in this field is to connect with them and build relationships and even the staff use themselves as mentors as adults that are different can be trusted, will accept behaviors, for us that’s the harm reduction piece,” Jon Bradley said.

Back in Rockland, Stephanie Primm gives us a view of the land she is hoping to cultivate as Hospitality House’s farm. Her dream is to grow produce for local restaurants in nearby Camden, Rockport and in Rockland. She’s also hoping to expand the shelter to make room for even more young families in need.

“We really need people to understand that this is real, this is very real and these are people who can succeed if they’re given a chance,and they’re given support.”

The City Council reallocates $40,000 of the federal funds for programs that serve the homeless.

The Portland City Council voted 6-2 Monday not to set aside $90,000 in federal grant money to help low-income families get child care so parents can find work or access counseling to become self-sufficient … Ultimately, the council voted to reallocate $40,000 of the funding to Milestone’s Home Outreach Mobile Engagement team and Preble Street’s Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter …

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Portland City Council approves block grant spending

on March 29, 2016@DavidHarry81SHARESHARE TWEET SHARE SHARE 0 COMMENTS

PORTLAND — City councilors settled one budget question Monday, then got a glimpse into the future of city spending and operations.

By a unanimous vote, the council approved the fiscal year 2017 block grant spending plan proposed by City Manager Jon Jennings earlier this month. The nearly $4 million in spending is far outstripped by the demand, Jennings said.

“This is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in this position,” Jennings said of allocating $1.8 million in Community Development Block Grants, $989,000 in other funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as some accrued city money.

Councilors also eliminated an automatic $90,000 set aside in CDBG funds for the Catherine Morrill Day Nursery. The dedicated fund was created last year after councilors eliminated bonus points for child-care grant applications.

The nursery will receive $50,000 in a block grant next year, although Jennings hinted additional funding could come when the council votes May 16 on the municipal budget he will introduce Monday, April 4.

As occurred in the March 14 CDBG hearing, child-care advocates requested that the funds continue to be set aside, although the elimination allowed Jennings to shift funding to the Homeless Outreach & Mobile Engagement, or HOME Team, operated by the Milestone Foundation.

The Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter operated by Preble Street will also receive $15,000 in diverted funding.

“If I have to choose between a subsidy for child care or helping a homeless teen out of harm’s way, I am going to make the decision to help a teen out of harm’s way,” Councilor Jill Duson said before voting to eliminate the set-aside funding. Councilors Nick Mavodones Jr. and David Brenerman opposed ending the set-aside.

In a 60-minute workshop following the 75-minute meeting, Fire Chief David Jackson outlined steps his department has taken to become more efficient, and said he and Jennings are now studying how the department may consolidate in the future.

The municipal operations budget Jennings will introduce will have money “to really look at where we place fire stations,” Jackson said.

“Ocean Avenue and Stevens Avenue are the stations that need to be replaced,” he added about aging off-peninsula stations that may not adequately serve how neighborhoods have grown.

Jackson also took issue with the 2013 audit by Maryland-based consulting firm Public Safety Solutions that suggests the department may be overstaffed, but added protocol changes instituted in 2014 have reduced the number of units that respond to some calls.

There are, on average, 53 firefighters and officers on duty each day, and staffing has been reduced by about 75 from a high of 300, Jackson said. He said comparisons used in the audit to 10 other New England cities were not fully valid because some of those cities lacked waterfronts, airports or did not operate their own rescue units.

Jackson said the department is also preparing to renew its inspection program in conjunction with the new city Housing Safety officer. The 11 city fire companies will be expected to perform48 inspections per shift per company, or more than 2,100 annually.

Commercial “Tier II” inspections for proper procedures on hazardous materials will also be renewed, Jackson said.

In his presentation, Jackson also noted the city boom in housing construction will also place more demands on the department.

Councilor Ed Suslovic, who has questioned how the department is staffed and deployed, praised Jackson for the presentation, but said he would like to hear more about how the rescue unit operations could be consolidated during off-peak hours and how downsizing in other departments has affected overall fire safety ratings assessed by the insurance industry.

Survey indicates many teens are homeless

PORTLAND, Maine -A 6-page, 45-question survey is being conducted in local communities to find new ways to help vulnerable young adults.

Preble Street Resource Center is conducting the study in seven counties. Preliminary results show that many young adults are homeless.

Teens that couch surf, camp out or find other ways to survive are being counted for in the survey.

A young mother, Alie Rodriguez, 20, often relies on friends or the Teen Center for help.

“It’s very hard,” Rodriguez said. “Especially when you’re at a young age and you’re trying to do it on your own.”

Leaders at Preble Street agree. They took six months to come up the teen survey in hopes of making a case to lawmakers.

“Nobody knew I was homeless in high school,” said Cheri Crossman, an advocate for Cumberland County youth, who was also homeless as a teen. “I was in Windham High School today talking to the principal (about) why we’re doing this. He was saying, ‘you were homeless?’ Well, technically I was couch surfing with one friend and I had a family take me in who wasn’t a foster parent.”

Preble Street in Rodriguez’s home for now.

“They’re there for you all the time, so it’s very nice to have those supporters,” she said.

Survey responses will be collected through Friday.

Survey hopes to quantify Maine’s homeless youth

PORTLAND – Social service provider Preble Street is conducting a first-ever count of homeless and runaway youth in Maine.

The count, which began May 18 and will last a week, was funded by a $35,000 grant from the Butler Family Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based foundation that focuses on inequalities of homelessness and the criminal justice system.

Jon Bradley, Preble Street associate director, said the survey was developed to help find and understand the needs of youth who are homeless or in an unstable housing situation. He said typical surveys on homelessness don’t always look at couch surfing, those staying with family or friends, and "other common experiences with youth with difficulty at home."

"We’re hoping to really be getting a better hand on what happens in more rural counties, where there aren’t local services now," Bradley said.

The goal of the count is to find youth 20 years old or younger who are not staying with their parents or guardians, and are determined to be at risk or in unstable living environments. To do this, Preble Street and partners are reaching out to schools, law enforcement, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Family and Children’s Services, and other community resources.

"One of the incentives (for the survey) was one of the four homeless shelters (in the state) last year closed and it wasn’t clear there was a full understanding by the Legislature … of the nature of the problem in Maine," Bradley said. "Part of that was we didn’t have good data."

Preble Street is putting up county-specific fliers to get the word out, giving students informational cards to give to their peers in need, and providing $5 Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards to participants.

Bradley said the organization has been working on the 30-question survey for roughly six months. It takes about 15 minutes to answer, and Bradley said it asks questions to find out where kids are staying if they aren’t in shelters, how they’re surviving, if they are working, if they’re in school, reasons they left home, what services they are accessing, and what services they still need.

"It’s really just to get a bit of picture of what’s happening with youth when we do find them," he said.

Counties included in the survey are Cumberland, York, Franklin, Kennebec, Androscoggin, Knox and Oxford.

Preble Street’s partners in the count are New Beginnings in Androscoggin and Franklin counties; Tedford Housing in Cumberland County; Kennebec Behavioral Health in Kennebec County; Knox County Homeless Coalition and Penquis CAP in Knox County; Rumford Group Homes in Oxford County, and The Opportunity Alliance in York County.

Although the count lasts a week, Bradley said it specifically looks at the night of May 18. He said the benefit of using a single point in time is so it can be compared to other point-in-time surveys done across the country.

"By getting the word out and having a way to reach us in each county, we hope over time word will get out and we will be able to do followups," Bradley said.

He said preliminary findings show officials in school districts are often aware of youths who are couch surfing or unstably housed.

"We’re trying to determine how many there are, how schools are locating, finding and becoming aware of these kids," he said.

He said the hope is to have a full report by fall.

Preble Street to count homeless youth

PORTLAND – Preble Street, a service and advocacy organization, has organized agencies in seven counties across Maine to conduct a first-ever runaway and homeless youth count during the week of May 18.

"This will be one of the most comprehensive counts of homeless and runaway youth undertaken anywhere in the nation, and perhaps the first to take place in a largely rural state," said Jon Bradley, Preble Street associate director.

Working with local partners in each of the seven participating counties, Preble Street will reach out to schools, law enforcement, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child and Family Services and other community resources to find people aged 20 and under who are not staying with parents or guardians and remain unstably housed or at risk.

Local partners are New Beginnings in Androscoggin and Franklin counties and the Rumford Group Homes in Oxford County.

"Because there are only three youth shelters in Maine, many youth find alternative ways of surviving when away from guardians including staying with friends or couch surfing, sleeping out or finding abandoned properties," Bradley said.

A 30-question survey will gather information from each youth counted. Results will be analyzed to provide Maine government officials with specific recommendations for decreasing the number of homeless and runaway youths in the state.

Portland’s community development grants reduced, demand remains high

PORTLAND – A plan to help people left most vulnerable by expected changes to city general assistance, homeless and public health programs will rely largely on $4.28 million in city funds and federal Community Development Block Grants.

Funding from the Consolidated Housing and Community Development Annual Action Plan will be the subject of an April 22 public hearing by the City Council Housing and Community Development Committee.

"My (CDBG) recommendations focused on mental health services, child-care services, food assistance, and emergency housing," acting City Manager Sheila Hill-Christian said in her April 6 budget letter.

The funds comprising the action plan include a federal CDBG grant of $1.8 million (with $400,00 for job training services), $265,000 in CDBG Housing funds, $820,000 from the federal Home Investments Partnerships Program, an Emergency Solutions Grant of $162,000, use of $643,000 from the city Housing Trust Fund, and income from other existing programs of $605,000.

Toho Soma, the city’s acting public health director, said in an April 9 email the effects could be widespread from aid reductions in several areas of the state biennial budget presented by Gov. Paul LePage.

"The public health cuts would result in severe reductions to the Children’s Oral Health Program, which provides restorative and preventive dental care, and oral health education, to any Portland Public School student in need. Other reductions affect the capacity of the India Street Clinic, the Chronic Disease Prevention Program, the Health Equity and Research Program, and general operations," he said.

Grant funding amounting to $525,000 will be spread through food programs at Preble Street and Wayside, for mental health and substance abuse peer support and counseling at Amistad, and to fund the Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement, or HOME team providing assistance and referrals for the city’s homeless.

HOME team support had been shifted from the grant program last year, but was supported in the municipal budget. Grants will also be made to the Joe Kreisler Teen Center and Florence House Women’s Shelter, with $150,000 also going to community policing programs.

To help provide permanent homes for chronically homeless people, Community Housing of Maine will receive at $250,000 grant. City Finance Director Brendan O’Connell estimated April 9 the change in state reimbursements for Oxford Street Shelter from operations costs to a per-client fee could result in the loss of $820,000.

Efforts to shift clients to permanent housing are also a focal point of the Emergency Solutions Grant of $162,000, with homeless prevention staffing funding at the city’s shelter for families almost double to $52,000 and rapid rehousing programs at Oxford Street increased to $55,000 from $43,000.

The Portland Jobs Alliance will receive $340,000 of the funding for job training programs, with the remainder going to the Portland Microenterprise Assistance Program.

Available grant funding was not only reduced from last year, but requests continue to outpace available dollars, with a gap of about $1.6 million for the most basic CDBG grant, Hill Christian said.