A MEAL IS SHARED at Tedford Housing’s Cumberland Street unit in Brunswick on Tuesday.

A MEAL IS SHARED at Tedford Housing’s Cumberland Street unit in Brunswick on Tuesday.

BRUNSWICK

The near-zero degree temperatures that descended into Maine this past weekend are forecast to return again by Friday, and Tedford Housing in Brunswick is doing their best to keep the homeless warm and indoors. With just 16 beds in their shelter, however, only a percentage of the Midcoast’s homeless have a safe place to stay.

“We can’t exceed 16 beds in our adult shelter,” said Tedford Housing Director of Operations Giff Jamison. “I think we are probably only able to serve about 20 percent of the need that is out there. But if somebody comes in from the cold with nowhere to go, we’ll put them on the couch. It’s just a one night thing, but we certainly won’t turn them away.”

Jamison said that, generally, there aren’t a lot of people sleeping outdoors in Brunswick, but many folks crowd into unsafe apartments or sleep in their cars.

“We were working with one couple recently who were sleeping in a tent,” said Jamison. “They were able to find a place indoors last weekend, sort of dodge that bullet, but they usually sleep outside through most of the winter.”

Jamison said that he didn’t see a sharp increase in folks’ need of shelter during last weekend’s chill because “there’s been such a demand for shelters anyway.”

Homelessness in the Midcoast is more hidden than it is in places like Portland, Jamison said, because most of the Midcoast homeless aren’t on the street.

“The need is really high,” Jamison said. “There are a lot of people out there sleeping in unsafe conditions — three and four to a small apartment or in cars — and we generally have to turn away 20-30 families a month.”

How long folks can stay in the shelter depends on where they are in their housing search. Some folks are just starting out, while others have applied for apartments and are waiting to hear back from landlords.

“As long as they are working actively with our case manager they can stay with us,” Jamison said.

Tedford Housing Executive Director Craig Phillips said that unlike Portland, the town of Brunswick does not participate in funding for homeless shelters, so Tedford Housing takes on most of that burden. A trust through the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority has helped aid funding for case management and beneficiary funds for the homeless in recent years, but that trust is set to end in June.

“We’ll have to piece together some funding to maintain the bulk of our services,” said Phillips.

Gov. Paul LePage’s administration also contributes funds, but that has been a double-edged sword in recent years.

“The last legislative session increased funding to Maine Housing, which is good, but they have also proposed to cut our case management services funding by one third,” said Phillips. “Case management works with folks during their stay here, and allows us to follow along with them after they leave and see that they don’t return to homelessness.”

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