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Homeless campsites spreading in Portland

Officials say Maine's shrinking social safety net is adding to the population, which includes some people who have other reasons for preferring life in hidden tents.
July 27, 2015 | Portland Press Herald

… The increase in homeless encampments is just one example of how desperate some people have become, Yellen said.

She points to the loss of federal food stamp benefits to childless adults between the ages of 19 and 49 who don’t have a disability, and Medicaid cuts in Maine that have caused thousands of people to lose access to health care. Those cuts also have reduced access to the state’s substance-abuse treatment system. Even relatively small cuts, such as new limits for using bus passes for medical appointments, make it harder for the poor to get around the city, she said.

“People are falling quickly and hard,” she said.

Preble Street Executive Director Mark Swann agrees.

From 2007 to 2015, the average number of food boxes that Preble Street delivers at its pantry jumped 50 percent, from an average of 111 a week to 166.

“I think there’s an impression that there’s a healthy social compact where people can get the help when they need it, and that’s so not true,” he said. “The human service network is being wrenched apart.” …

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