The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded a series of grants to organizations in Maine for affordable housing services and efforts to reduce homelessness in the state.

Six programs in Maine will share $13.1 million aimed at reducing homelessness, while nine housing agencies in five Maine counties will split about $500,000 in federal aid to help pay for service coordinators to connect residents with affordable housing programs and services.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, announced the grants in two separate statements issued Thursday.

“This important funding supports our state’s efforts to help the most at-risk Mainers by providing them with additional resources to promote their health, independence, and overall well-being,” Collins said of the homelessness reduction grants. She added that the affordable housing grants will help connect Mainers with the resources they need to achieve economic independence.

The largest share of the $13.1 million in homelessness-reduction funds – about $9.9 million – will go to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. The city of Bangor and Portland-based social services nonprofit Preble Street each will receive more than $1 million, and lesser amounts will go to the Maine State Housing Authority, Through These Doors family crisis center in Portland, and Community Housing of Maine.

The money will be used for a variety of programs designed to address the problem of homelessness, Collins’ office said.

According to HUD, an estimated 2,100 people experienced homelessness in Maine on a single night in January 2019, a decrease of 16 percent from the same night in 2018. HUD conducts an annual one-night survey in which participating planning agencies and volunteers seek to identify the number of individuals and families living in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs and in unsheltered settings.

In Maine, most of the homeless people counted as part of the 2019 survey – roughly 2,000 – were located in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs, while about 100 were unsheltered, according to HUD.

Despite an economy that appeared to be booming in many respects, numbers at Portland’s city-run emergency homeless shelters have only increased. In 2010, the city-run Oxford Street Shelter served a total of 1,402 men. In 2018, that shelter served 1,872 people, including 465 women. That’s a 34 percent increase over eight years.

There has been a reduction in the number of adults seeking shelter in Portland over the past two years. The average number of people seeking space at the Oxford Street Shelter from January through October 2019 was 208 per night, compared to 216 per night in 2017. But the demand varied widely, from a high of 271 on two nights in January and February to a low of only 135 one night in August.

The slight drop in average nightly use came as shelter staff issued more criminal trespass orders to prevent individuals who break the rules from returning. The orders, which can prevent someone from using the shelter for up to a year, increased by 50 percent from 84 in 2018 to 126 through early October 2019. However, trespass orders dropped by nearly 28 percent at other community shelters during the same period, from 86 to 62.

The second group of HUD grants, totaling of $509,826, are from HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program, which aims to help residents find jobs, increase their income, reduce or eliminate the need for housing aid or welfare, and move toward economic independence and housing self-sufficiency, it said.

The agencies receiving funds include the Maine State Housing Authority, the city of Caribou and housing agencies in Portland, Westbrook, Lewiston, Old Town, Augusta, Brewer and Bangor.


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