Recent coverage of Portland’s struggles with homelessness and lack of substance abuse and mental health resources rightfully causes alarm for those living and working in Portland. While Randy Billings’ May 6 reportage vividly illustrates some common occurrences one can witness on Oxford Street and around Preble Street Resource Center, a view inside the resource center was notably absent.

To some, the area is a place to smoke, play cards, loiter or worse. But we, along with scores of Portland-area attorneys, have been privileged to be part of an effort to help many Preble Street clients with the myriad issues they grapple with daily. The Maine Homeless Legal Project has been in operation at Preble Street every Tuesday for over four years. Through the generosity of attorneys donating time and expertise, the clinic provides pro bono advice and representation to Preble Street clients.

MHLP assists over 80 clients a year, with three-quarters of those receiving ongoing representation. The clinic encounters all manner of legal issues that can be barriers to obtaining employment or housing. Minor issues that most could navigate by themselves (or pay someone to help them overcome) are massive obstacles to the homeless or those with mental health and substance abuse issues.

Preble Street staff and social workers are compassionate, hardworking and professional. They make it easier for the lawyers who volunteer at the clinic to focus on assisting the clients. Preble Street staff are advocates and facilitators of this project that aims to reduce – and has had success in reducing – the very problems debated in this newspaper over the past days. The Maine Homeless Legal Project is only one way that area professionals are collaborating to work with the professionals at Preble Street. We hope with the attention drawn to these issues, more will be inspired to use their talents to alleviate the problems Portland is confronting.

Tom Marczak

Portland

David Soley

Freeport

On behalf of the Maine Homeless Legal Project


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