Homelessness is not okay
Night after night in Portland 156 people file in to the city shelter to get out of the cold and try to sleep on row after row after row of mats. When all the mats are filled, 75 people are directed to the room above the Preble Street Resource Center soup kitchen. When that space fills, dozens more are directed to City offices to wait for a chair where they can sit for the night.
At the Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter, 24 youth claim a bed. Their only home.
All across Maine, hundreds more sleep under a tarpaulin in the woods, in abandoned buildings, in their cars, on river banks, and under bridges.
Every year, Preble Street holds a memorial service for dozens of our homeless friends who have died on the streets, alone.
The picture of homelessness in Maine is a terrible picture, it’s gruesome and it’s painful. The numbers are staggering, and sometimes overwhelming.
But we don’t have to accept homelessness. We don’t need to build more shelters. Things can change.
On March 24, 2005 shelter numbers plummeted in Portland. For the first time in over 20 years, there was a decrease in shelter usage.
That night was the night Logan Place opened.
Logan Place puts “housing first.” Offers chronically homeless people a “home for good.” It’s a place where people who no longer have to deal with the stress and danger of the streets start to deal with their problems, work on recovery, engage in mental health care, reconnect with their families.
And Logan Place was only the beginning.
In 2010, when Florence House opened, 65 homeless women found safe, affordable apartments of their own, a safe haven for women transitioning to independence, and emergency beds for women experiencing a short-term episode of homelessness.
It is not enough to feed people at soup kitchens and feel good about it. It’s not okay for people to sleep on mats on the floor or try to sleep in chairs. It’s not okay for women to live for years and years and years on the streets.
We must end homelessness. Not manage it, not deal with it, but end it.
All of us need to be saying that homelessness is not okay.
Learn more about homelessness and how to end it
We can end chronic homelessness.
Homelessness decreased dramatically as a result of our first “housing first” program at Logan Place. The 2007 City of Portland Point-in-Time Survey of Homelessness pointed out that only 19% of adults were chronically homeless in 2007, “compared to 26% in 2006 and 37% in 2004” and cited “the continued success of Logan Place in keeping chronically homeless individuals stably housed.”
But since 2008, that progress has been undermined by the catastrophic economic recession. From 276 people homeless in 2009 the number climbed to 480 in 2013.
Logan Place still works. Florence House works. And we need them more than ever.
Supportive housing has proven successful for the people who are no longer living on the streets and for the entire community, both locally and across the nation. Read some of the publications and reports below about the experience of being homeless.
- Bringing People Home for Good [PDF 388K], by Mark Swann
- What You May Not Know [PDF 62K]
- Logan Place Cost Analysis [PDF 103K]
- Logan Place Cost Analysis Summary [PDF 26K]
- Preble Street Reports—Women and Homelessness [PDF 408K], by Thomas McLaughlin, PhD
- Florence House brochure [PDF 664K]
- Million Dollar Murray, by Malcolm Gladwell
Why problems like homelessness may be easier to solve than to manage.
- Housing Saves—Eastlake Study Summary [PDF 60K]
- Furman Center Supportive Housing [PDF 476K]