A statewide campaign launched last week to house 100 homeless veterans by Nov. 11, Veterans Day, needs the help of landlords to achieve that goal.

“No veteran or their family should face homelessness or hunger, but that’s the reality for too many veterans in our state right now,” said Dan Hodgkins, senior director of Veterans Housing Services at Preble Street. “The 100 Veteran Challenge will make a big difference to many of these families.”

As of June, 163 veterans in Maine were homeless, Hodgkins said. In February, the number of unhoused veterans increased 84% over February 2020 to 184.

Since the pandemic began, the amount of time it takes to connect people to housing has almost tripled, going from an average of 86 days to 232 days.

“The length is a result of the housing market, with less supply and more demand,” he said.

“We recognize landlords have been impacted by the pandemic as well and some have gone months without rent coming in,” he said. “In order to do this, we need their help, but we are arriving at the table with some resources so the tenants have what they need and the landlords have what they need.”

Tenants will receive case management services and landlords will be provided with up to an additional $1,500 in risk mitigation funding to cover late rent or damage caused by tenants.

“Some landlords have already committed to putting aside units for veterans,” Hodgkins said. “The challenge is aligning the needs of the veteran and the needs of the landlord.”

Ben Skillings of Freedom House, an organization that helps to provide housing for homeless men dealing with substance misuse and addiction, is happy to work with Preble Street to house veterans. He has offered the program three units in a Freedom House building in downtown Portland and another 20 in a 40-room building that is opening soon.

“What (the veterans housing program) at Preble Street provides is ongoing support,” Skillings said. “They are very easy to work with. The rent is paid in a reasonable amount of time. They really do spend a lot of energy and effort providing the ongoing support that someone who has been homeless for a long time needs.”

A dozen partner organizations that serve veterans and their families have also signed on.

One of those partner organizations is Furniture Friends, a Westbrook-based nonprofit that collects and distributes furniture and other household items for those in need.

“We serve anyone who is economically disadvantaged,” Executive Director Jenn McAdoo said. “Over the years, we have helped veterans and are participating in the challenge because the need is so great. These are people who served our country and have fallen on hard times. If we can support getting them housed and provide them with something comfortable and stable, we are all in on that.”

Landlords interested in learning more about the challenge can visit landlordshelp.org.

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