To the Editor:

The size of the group that gathered was a surprise to Bill Bliss, pastor of the Neighborhood Faith Community UCC and the other organizers of a meeting to discuss the issues of homelessness in Bath.

There had been no publicity; the outreach had been simply word of mouth. But 29 people found their way to the cafeteria at Morse High School on a Monday evening to talk about the growing population of homeless people seeking housing assistance in Bath. Included were representatives of human service agencies, Sheriff Joel Merry, Bath City Councilor David Sinclair, four people who came to share about their own experiences of homelessness and other concerned citizens.

The rising concern about homelessness in the Bath and other Maine communities has been demonstrated. In an editorial on Oct. 31, the Bangor Daily News wrote: “There are important steps communities and the state and federal government can take to help Mainers from having to live in cars, parks, abandoned buildings, on sidewalks and in emergency shelters. They include developing enough supportive housing, providing clear access to available services, following up with people over time and expanding prevention efforts.”

In an article published on Feb. 12, 2011, Cullen Ryan, executive director of Community Housing in Maine, wrote “In the last decade we have seen cuts to programs serving the poor, and opportunities with resources to solve problems were rare. This is sad because we know exactly how to end homelessness, and whenever we commit the resources to do so, we can end it.”

Over and over, experts in government and nonprofits concerned with homelessness stress the importance of collaboration between federal, state, municipal, human services and civic leadership.

Throughout the United States and in other countries, there are efforts to develop creative, humane responses to the problems of those without housing.

It is a challenge this group wants to take on, and to enlist the hearts and minds of the community to join in it with them.

Bath is a community with special gifts and resources that it can commit to finding creative, unique responses to the challenge of meeting the need for safe, supportive housing for those who have gotten left behind in these tough economic times.

Bonnie Gerrard