Once again this week we saw how Maine’s disjointed, hole-filled approach to helping the homeless falls short.

In Scarborough this week, this Comfort Inn & Suites on Route 1 was granted a renewed operating license only after it agreed to stop sheltering people. That may cut down on the number of police calls and make some neighbors feel better, but it also leaves people without a place to live. File photo

By the end of the year, more than 80 people now staying at a hotel in Scarborough will be evicted. Some of them, maybe a lot of them, won’t be able to find a place to live.

As Maine heads into winter, they will literally be left out in the cold, let down at nearly every step by a system in which responsibility is easily shoved off.

The guests at a hotel, a Comfort Inn & Suites on Route 1, are there because of a severe shortage of shelter space caused by increased homelessness and COVID health precautions.

The Comfort Inn was one of a few hotels in Greater Portland to take in people who are unhoused in an initiative that provided not only shelter for those folks, but also revenue for hotels that were struggling during the pandemic.

Police and other emergency services were called frequently to the hotels, however, and with Portland planning to open a new, large shelter sometime next year, municipal leaders asked the hotels to wind down their participation in the homeless program.


In Scarborough, the renewal of Comfort Inn’s operating license was granted only after the hotel agreed to stop sheltering people.

That may cut down on the number of police calls and make some neighbors feel better, but it also puts the people now without shelter in real trouble, facing winter without many good prospects for housing.

That’s the problem with how Maine handles homelessness. For most communities, it’s too easy to shirk their responsibility to people who are homeless within their borders. Unless you’re in Portland, where many people who are unhoused are drawn for services and shelter, or perhaps Lewiston or Bangor, you can push your problems out of town, or at least out of sight.

That, of course, doesn’t solve the problem – it just solves the problems most noticeable by other residents.

So people are going to be without shelter this winter because the police calls to hotels became too much, and while those folks were staying temporarily in a hotel, no one came up with a better plan to help them.

It’s not just Scarborough; it happens nearly everywhere. In Auburn this week, officials ordered a homeless encampment at a church to be broken up.


The encampment may have been breaking zoning laws, as well as bothering neighbors, but it was also providing a place for people to stay and perhaps find more help. Where will they go now? Auburn officials don’t have much of an answer.

Instead, they’ll leave it up to others, mostly the social service agencies and advocates who will provide them with resources and help them find shelter somewhere else.

It should be so easy for communities to push aside people who are experiencing homelessness. Heading into winter, they’ll need all the help they can get.

At this point, as autumn starts, things don’t look great. Homelessness is elevated, not only in southern Maine but throughout the state.

And it could be getting worse. Reports from food pantries in Harrison, Augusta and Winslow lately, show a sharp increase in people looking for help – something that happens when disaster is right around the corner for many families.

When trouble does strike, where will they look for help? And will anyone be looking out for them?

At this point in Maine, no one can responsibly comfort them with a clear answer.

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