SOUTH PORTLAND — Six months after a city council workshop regarding homelessness, city staff have released a report highlighting four initiatives to address the issue: street outreach and healthcare, general assistance, navigation and increase of housing.

The report was released to the city council on Sept. 14.

According to the report, “Last year, staff members of the South Portland Fire Department established a program called ‘Project Outreach.’ It is led by paramedic and Local Health Officer Joshua Pobrislo who schedules, coordinates, and deploys outreach teams, at least twice a week, with a trailer full of purchased supplies and two pop-up tents.

“The original purpose of Project Outreach was to connect vulnerable and homeless populations to resources during the pandemic, provide necessities such as food, and to offer guidance regarding a litany of concerns ranging from substance misuse, chronic health conditions, and COVID education. However, the program has since evolved to include coordination of a host of agencies in order to ensure clients’ needs are being met in their daily environments and in their languages. This is accomplished by making regular contact with people, primarily at motels/hotels in South Portland that house homeless, refugee, and asylum seeking populations.”

The project has been successful in collaborating with agencies like Amistad, Maine Options, Northern Light Health, Shaw’s Osco and Greater Portland Health, the city reported.

The Police Services Review Working Group recommended that the city contract for mobile crisis services with a local provider in February 2021, said the report.

“The aim is to reduce 9-1-1 calls for these types of services and help avoid unnecessary emergency room visits and/or incarcerations,” the report said. “Folks who also might fear calling 9-1-1 for help would have another option. The police services group estimated the annual cost for these services to be $90,000 – $180,000 annually. Council endorsed these recommendations and in July 2021, city council approved $90,000 for this service as part of their annual budget process. Since then, staff have been working with former police services members to create an RFP to issue. Recently, the Human Rights Commission provided their feedback on the draft RFP, which is in process of being issued. The goal is to have a contract in place for these services by Nov. 1, 2021.”

The Days Inn in South Portland is temporarily under contract with MaineHousing to provide emergency shelter, with funds available through December 2021, said the report.

The city created room in the fiscal year 2022 budget for a full-time housing support specialist, the report said.

“The intent is for this position to administer general assistance in conjunction with housing support and short-term intensive case management for people who are homeless and those at risk of homelessness,” said the city. “Through the end of August, 18 individuals and families have utilized this service, and six of those are receiving more intensive case management. Unfortunately, at this time, permanent housing has not been found for any of the individuals or families.”

Challenges about availability and affordability of local houses remain, the report said.

“Quality Housing Coalition’s Project HOME partners with social service agencies to house individuals and families receiving behavioral health services, those experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness, those with involvement in the foster care and criminal justice system, and immigrants and refugees,” the report said. “Project HOME provides housing mentors and financial guarantees for each unit. Of the approximately 20 requests for housing each week, Project HOME is able to find housing for two of those in a typical week.”

Project HOME has served 124 families in 2021, said the report.

“In March 2021 the South Portland City Council accepted a grant from the South Portland Housing Authority to undertake a comprehensive housing assessment of the community and develop strategies to address the availability and affordability of housing in the city,” the report said.

The city has partnered with Crane Associates to conduct a study, the report said. The firm started work over the summer of 2021.

City Manager Scott Morelli told the council that the report did not require any action.

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