Portland officials to take survey snapshot of city homeless population

Tonight, Portland city officials will join state and federal counterparts in an effort to gather data on the homeless situation in Maine’s largest city. According to an announcement from City Hall, five teams will head out to the six shelters in Portland and to several outdoor locations in an attempt to find and question individuals living on the streets.

According to the city, the so-called point-in-time surveys aim to find out: Who is homeless? What factors led to becoming homeless? And, most importantly, what can the city and state do to prevent homelessness?

The annual canvasing will be among the first tasks carried out with the assistance of the city’s recently established task force on homelessness (more officially called the Task Force to Develop a Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness).

Here’s a statement by Mayor Michael Brennan on the subject:

The results we get from tonight’s point-in-time survey will be critical as they give a voice to the hundreds of men, women and children experiencing homelessness every night. At a time when resources are diminishing and numbers are increasing, it is clear that we need to do more for the city’s and state’s most vulnerable. Now is not the time to eliminate programs that help men, women and families find stable housing or get life saving health care, rather, it is the time to work together and find innovative solutions.

Mark McForbes gets his blood pressure and blood sugar checked last month at the Health Care for the Homeless Clinic in Portland. (BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett)

In its announcement today, City Hall reiterated its objection to Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed MaineCare cuts, offered in reaction to a reported $220 million shortfall in the state Department of Health and Human Services budget.

Brennan first argued against the cuts during a legislative hearing last month, and doctors and patients at the city’s Health Care for the Homeless Clinic decried the potential loss of funding again a few weeks later.

Here are a few paragraphs from the city’s survey announcement today explaining what city officials see as the local impacts of the proposed MaineCare reductions:

Governor LePage’s supplemental budget proposal calls for the elimination of several programs utilized by the state’s homeless population including Targeted Case Management, a program that helps individuals experiencing homelessness locate and secure stable housing. Last year, this program helped more than four hundred families achieve stable housing.

With the beginning of the downturn in the economy four years ago, the number of individuals experiencing homelessness within the city has increased by 20 percent. On any given night more than 350 people within the community experience homelessness and seek emergency refuge at one of community’s six overnight shelters. The city of Portland operates two emergency shelters, the Oxford Street Shelter and the Emergency Family Shelter, which provide critical serves to the community’s most vulnerable populations. Currently, at least 65 family members including a three-month old infant and grandparent and more than 200 adult men and women are seeking emergency refuge at one of these shelters. Due to increasing homelessness and need for emergency shelter, the city in partnership with Preble Street has had to expand shelter capacity by opening a community overflow shelter.

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Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.