BRUNSWICK

Every year, communities across the country conduct a nearly simultaneous count of homeless individuals in their area.

This coming Tuesday, that will take place all over Maine.

Various nonprofits, shelters and volunteers will be working together to identify as many homeless individuals as they can find. Tedford Housing will be overseeing the annual count for the Brunswick area.

“So the surveyors, the volunteers who are conducting the survey, will sit down with people, and people will kind of have to raise their hand and say yes I’m homeless. We explain the survey, and hopefully people will respond to the questions we ask them,” said Craig Phillips, executive director of Tedford Housing.

The count consists of a survey, which asks homeless individuals questions about their demographics and situation. That data is then compiled and submitted to the Maine Homeless Management Information System and HUD. The collected data is used to divvy out federal funds and grants and helps people see where the need for financial support is greatest.

“We at Tedford Housing feel serving the southern Midcoast part of Maine are experiencing a fairly high demand for services for people who are homeless,” said Phillips. “Brunswick is a lovely community to live and raise a family, however, there are members of households who are on the edge of potentially becoming homeless. One of the indicators for me are that about 40-45 percent of students in Brunswick school are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

“This year, for the first time in the Point in Time Count, homeless youth will be counted,” said Phillips. “We’ve been working with the Brunswick School Department and MSAD 75 in Top- sham to see how we can encourage students at the schools to be aware of the survey and encourage more participation in the survey.”

According to a study commissioned by Tedford Housing in 2016, more than 400 individuals sought help from them in 2015 while only a quarter could be directly assisted with shelter beds. The study, which looked at Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties as well as the Greater Brunswick area, claimed that one in nine people in that area live below the poverty line, and homelessness is increasing in the Midcoast region. The annual PIT count provides another data point to understand homelessness in Maine.

Like many communities, the Brunswick PIT count will be organized primarily around homeless shelters. Phillips said that on Tuesday, he will have five or six volunteers located at various places that they believe are often frequented by homeless individuals.

“Volunteers will be at Midcoast Hunger Prevention, the Gathering Place, and the Oasis Free Clinic to conduct the survey involved in the count,” he said.

In Sagadahoc County, volunteers are taking a different tack. Sagadahoc County has no homeless shelter, and many of the Bath area’s homeless are served in shelters in Brunswick, said Veterans Housing Services Supervisor Christopher Balderas for Preble Street in Lewiston, who has stepped in to organize the PIT count for that county.

“Since we don’t have any active shelters to go to, what we’re going to do is we’re going to wake up early that next morning and get out by like 5 a.m. and try to hit up some parks and things like that to see if we can identify anyone,” said Balderas. “We also left our phone numbers and contacts (in places around the county) so if people know of someone, they can give us a call and we can drive out there to go meet with them.”

Balderas has about a half dozen volunteers so far, but he’s looking for more. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Balderas through Preble Street as soon as possible.

“The importance of this count is so we can get an idea about how many literally homeless persons there are in Maine,” said Balderas. “And then we can present that number so we can better serve, understand and get additional services for those persons, whether it be housing vouchers or grants to help us case manage persons who are looking for housing.”

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