November 16, 2012

Portland businesses see more homeless shelters as vicious circle

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Homeless people line up for sleeping space at the Oxford Street shelter in Portland on Tuesday, July 24, 2012. Originally from Texas, Tim Frary, has been homeless since losing his job at the Jetport in April. Frary was in line at the shelter in hopes of getting a bed for the night.

John Ewing/2012 Press Herald file

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Related Documents

Task force report
Portland Community Chamber response

"What we found was that such requirements do not reduce the number of -- or length of time someone is -- homeless," McCormick said.

The city already has a workfare program, with able-bodied clients working in various city departments, from cleaning the shelters to doing laundry at the Barron Center.

According to the most recent General Assistance annual report, the number of people participating in workfare has grown over the years.

In 2007, a total of 218 people provided 13,307 hours of work, valued at $89,000. In 2012, a total of 530 people provided 55,280 hours of work, valued at nearly $415,000.

McCormick said the task force addressed the chamber's concern about concentrating services downtown, and recommended that housing units be developed not only in the downtown.

But establishing emergency shelters elsewhere in the city would require zoning changes, which would likely be a highly political process.

"No one wants this in their back yards, so this is a big concern for us," Fuss said.

Brennan said housing-first apartments -- like Logan Place and Florence House -- would not need zoning changes to be developed off the peninsula. The city code restricts only shelters, he said.

The task force did not include cost estimates for its recommendations. The current system costs more than $6.7 million per year, and a new streamlined system could save $2.2 million in emergency care costs, the report says.

McCormick said the feedback from the business community is vital. The task force has recommended that the city form a "legacy" group to oversee and advocate for the implementation of the recommendations.

"It will take all facets of our community working together to make real change happen," McCormick said. "I know the legacy group of the task force, if formed, will rely on participation by the chamber."

Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @randybillings

 

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