Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Barbara Poppe, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, at Portland’s Kreisler Teen Shelter, says Portland has “a serious situation” with homelessness.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
Barbara Poppe, right, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, listens to Preble Street’s Donna Yellen, left, during a visit to Portland’s Kreisler Teen Shelter on Tuesday.
John Ewing/Staff photographer
Q: What’s happening on the federal level to reduce chronic homelessness?
A: Our administration has been committed to a goal of ending chronic and veterans homelessness by 2015, and ending family, youth and child homelessness by 2020. We do this under a plan that’s called the Opening Doors plan, a federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. Our work on chronic homelessness is very much aligned with our work on veterans homelessness, and unfortunately too many veterans experience long-term homelessness. And so our message and investment on veterans homelessness has been to expand the supply of permanent supportive housing available for veterans. We’ve made new investments in what’s called rapid rehousing for veterans. Preble Street has the grant that is used across the state under the Supportive Service for Veteran Families Program, which is the (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) rapid rehousing program. So these new investments, we believe, are really underlying the great progress we’ve made on veterans homelessness. ... What we see as the opportunity for Maine is that you have a supply of permanent supportive housing that largely is not targeted to the problem of chronic homelessness. Just under 15 percent of admissions to permanent supportive housing in Maine are those who are chronically homeless. That number should be much closer to 100 percent. Across the country, the national average is more like 40 percent.
Q: Finally, what can the average person do to help with this problem?
A: The most important thing that ordinary citizens can do is ... recognize that this is an issue that your community has to grapple with. And as you grapple with that, the first question is: What can I do to contribute to an end to homelessness and be committed to that? And I think there are many ways that individuals can do that. They can help out and volunteer through nonprofit organizations. They can be supportive as housing is opened in their neighbor(hood)s. ... We’ve seen churches and synagogues and other religious groups come together and call for the kind of investment ... and community support that’s necessary to make organizations successful, and to be a part, on a bipartisan basis, really advancing a positive agenda, that it is possible to end homelessness in our country.
J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at: