The good news is that homelessness is a solvable problem. The bad news is that more people are experiencing homelessness.

Covid 19 and its residual impact worsened the housing crisis experienced by many Mainers. The Point In Time (PIT) Survey published annually by Maine Housing looks at the number of people experiencing homelessness on a given day. It is not meant to give a comprehensive number of everyone experiencing homelessness in Maine, but can provide information on trends and how specific groups are being impacted. In 2022, people being temporarily housed in hotels through the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program were included in the PIT count.

This almost tripled the number of people experiencing homelessness from the previous two years. ERA is a federal program established in 2020 to prevent people from becoming evicted and falling into homelessness as a result of some of the harsh economic conditions brought about by Covid. Community Action Programs (CAP) have provided ERA assistance to thousands of people across Maine, helping households avoid evictions and being out on the streets.

As of June 1, some hotels are opting out of providing rooms because of new guidelines that cap payments at federally capped rates based on season and location. Understandably, many hotels base their livelihood on the tourist season and can’t afford to absorb that rate reduction. Additional changes to the ERA program include reducing the qualifying income from 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) to 50% and reducing length of participation from 18 months to 12 months.

Hotel space made available through General Assistance or provided as COVID quarantine sites has also been dramatically reduced.

At Tedford, we have seen an increase in calls for assistance from people who have had to leave local hotels without securing a place to live. We, and other emergency housing providers, are concerned about an increased number of people falling into homelessness over the next few months.


Back to the good news. It turns out that most people’s housing crisis can be solved through a pretty basic set of resources. Many people are familiar with the term Housing First. That means helping people to get into housing with no prerequisites, no hurdles to jump through, or programs to complete prior to accessing stable affordable housing.

One way we apply the Housing First principle is through Rapid Re-Housing. The idea is that most people experiencing homelessness can succeed in maintaining their housing after securing it. The key ingredient is case management. A case manager assists someone in locating affordable housing, completing applications, and applying for public assistance to secure income.

A variety of programs can pay for up-front costs like security deposits and case managers often secure resources to help with moving, obtaining basic furniture and household items, etc. Once lease-up and move-in takes place, case managers can offer continued support to access resources like healthcare, job training or provide other referrals that can smooth the transition to housing.

For households assisted through Rapid Re-housing programs, National Alliance to End Homelessness indicates some studies demonstrated a 77 to 90% success rate in maintaining housing past the first year. This was even true for some households that had lengthy periods of homelessness. It is true that some people have more challenging barriers where a higher level of support is necessary to achieve long term stability.

For those households, permanent supportive housing — affordable housing with regular access to a case manager who can be available onsite — has proven to be effective. But, in our current environment, many households have been pushed into homelessness for largely economic reasons in which a single event, or combination of events, has caused them to lose their housing.

Job loss of a primary income earner in the household, sudden rent increase, divorce, transitioning to a job in an area where affordable housing is close to non-existent, injury or death of a family member, are just some of the reasons why many we encounter find themselves without a home.


Alicia Lussier, case manager at our adult shelter, points to the scarcity of affordable housing as the number one reason why people stay in our shelter for longer periods of time.

Other barriers, such as untreated mental health conditions and substance use disorder, can make it difficult for some people to secure and maintain housing. But our shelter beds turn over less frequently, and consequently, we shelter fewer people, primarily due to a housing supply shortage.

Our case managers are skilled in navigating the complex challenges in helping people with a housing search and securing subsidies that make housing affordable, two of the three key steps to Rapid Re-Housing. The third step, actually reducing the length of time people are in shelters or other homeless situations, is largely dependent on increasing the supply of housing, particularly for people emerging from homelessness that generally have very low incomes.

That effort needs the support of the community to come to fruition. Until then we’ll continue to work with all of our community partners to alleviate the experience of homelessness in the Southern Midcoast, one household at a time.

Giff Jamison is the director of programs at Tedford Housing. Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local non-profit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community.


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