The governor’s office says it is considering Portland’s request that it form a task force on homelessness, but also is thinking about whether existing state agencies could play a greater role in addressing the issue.

The Portland City Council on Monday unanimously approved a resolution calling for the creation of a task force to look at ways to respond to homelessness, which the council hopes might include changes to General Assistance law and the creation of a state resettlement office and statewide shelter system.

“The governor is committed to addressing emergency housing needs in Maine, and the administration has engaged with the city of Portland, other municipalities, the Legislature, Maine’s congressional delegation and community-based organizations consistently over the past several months to that end,” Lindsay Crete, a spokesperson for Mills, said in an email.

“With respect to the Portland City Council’s resolution, the administration is considering its request and is evaluating whether existing entities, like the Statewide Homeless Council and Built for Zero initiative, can be further empowered to serve as the appropriate venue to address the broader problem of homelessness in Maine,” Crete said.

The Statewide Homeless Council is an advisory committee whose members include appointees of the governor, state officials and appointees chosen jointly by the president of the Maine Senate and the speaker of the House. Its job is to coordinate information, assess statewide needs and provide leadership on ways to end homelessness.

Built for Zero is a national initiative that is working to end homelessness through the nonprofit Community Solutions. Maine first got involved in the program about a year ago and in February announced contracts for nine “service hub coordinators” to engage with local officials and coordinate homelessness services in nine geographic areas of the state.


Portland Mayor Kate Snyder said Tuesday that while there already are state efforts to address homelessness and increase housing stock, the city’s resolution is also focused on the unique and immediate crisis of an influx of asylum seekers.

“It’s sort of a new factor and not something we were thinking about a year ago at this time,” Snyder said.

In her email, Crete listed other efforts the administration has undertaken in recent months to address emergency housing needs, such as including $22 million in the governor’s supplemental budget to address homelessness, in part by providing rental assistance or appropriate housing for people staying in hotels, and making $750,000 in grant funding available for wraparound services.

The governor also worked with the congressional delegation to secure 100 percent reimbursement from the federal government for eligible General Assistance expenses, including housing, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Crete said, adding that after July 1 municipalities will still be reimbursed 90 percent of their eligible costs indefinitely. The state also has made $10 million available to municipalities and tribes to help them offset potential reductions in federal financial support.

Crete said Mills has instructed Greg Payne, her senior housing adviser, and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, to work closely with community leaders to help individuals and families struggling with housing and services.

“On behalf of the administration, Greg has led a coordinated effort to locate and finance emergency housing for people experiencing homelessness, including those seeking asylum,” Crete said. “This work remains ongoing.”

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