A proposed study in Scarborough would assess the population of unhoused people in town to determine what resources they need and how to connect them with those resources.

“We realized that we needed a more comprehensive approach to how … we figure out what the level of homelessness is in Scarborough and what the nature really is,” said Karen Martin, executive director of the Scarborough Economic Development Corporation. “You can’t tackle a problem until you know what the extent of it is.”

The town is applying for a $10,000 Cumberland County Community Development Block Grant to hire a consultant to conduct the study, likely this summer.

Roughly 100 unhoused people, including families with children, were sheltered at the Comfort Inn on Route 1 last year, and while they have been transitioning out of the hotel, the town council recognized last month that homelessness will continue to be an issue the town needs to address.

Because the reasons for homelessness are varied, resources to address it can be vastly different, according to Lauren Dembski-Martin, Scarborough’s social services coordinator.

“Some people were displaced because of COVID,” Dembski-Martin said. “How do we help those people versus those that are chronically homeless because of mental health or substance use?”


Homelessness can appear differently than the image many may have of people living on the streets, in a shelter or at an encampment, she said.

In Scarborough, encampments “have dissipated,” Dembski-Martin said.

“Now we’re seeing an influx of those people sleeping in their car in the Walmart parking lot, so the population that we’re seeing of unhoused individuals here in Scarborough is ever-changing,” she said.

The needs of unhoused people also depend on demographics. A single adult staying at a shelter, for example, requires different resources than a family living in their car or a homeless teenager who couch surfs.

“The reality is everyone has a unique circumstance,” Dembski-Martin said. “There are services geared toward those that are unhoused, but how do we figure out which ones are really applicable and which ones are ready, right now, to take on clients and help folks?”

Since state and federal funding to shelter the unhoused during the pandemic ran dry in late 2022, finding resources that are available “right now” is crucial, she said.

After the Scarborough data is collected, the town’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, or LEAD, and its steering committee, along with other stakeholders, will analyze it and come up with strategies.

“This feels like a step in the right direction,” Martin said. “These are serious problems. You can’t dance around these things. You’ve got to understand it.”

If approved for the grant, which has a submission deadline of Jan. 19, the study would begin in July.

Comments are not available on this story.