Sen. Angus King, center, and Rep. Chellie Pingree listen as U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough speaks at a panel discussion at the University of Southern Maine in Portland on Friday about the launch of a “No Homeless Veteran” campaign to end veteran homelessness in Maine by June 2025. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Housing 100 homeless veterans in 100 days.

That’s the goal that was set out at a gathering of about 70 people at the University of Southern Maine Friday for the launch of the “No Veterans Homeless” campaign. In addition to housing 100 veterans by Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11, the group led by social work nonprofit Preble Street aims to end veteran homelessness in the state by June 2025.

As with homelessness in general, veteran homelessness has skyrocketed in Maine in recent years.

In February 2020, veteran homelessness in Maine was almost nonexistent, said Dan Hodgkins, senior director of social work at Preble Street. Now there are over 200 homeless veterans in the state.

Speakers at the panel discussion, including Sen. Angus King, Rep. Chellie Pingree and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, said they are committed to ending veteran homelessness in the state.

“The fact that it was done before tells me it can be done again,” King said.


Like anyone else, veterans can become homeless for a variety of reasons, including lack of mental health support, job insecurity and the housing crisis.

There have long been housing insecure veterans in Maine. But the pandemic made it harder to house and otherwise support those people, which exacerbated veteran homelessness, Hodgkins said.

“We were doing pretty well before the pandemic,” he said.

Veterans listen as a panel discusses an effort to end veteran homelessness in Maine at the University of Southern Maine in Portland on Friday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

But since February 2020, the number of homeless veterans in the state has grown steadily. Though veterans are becoming homeless at roughly the same rate as three years ago, finding housing for them has become more challenging. Before the pandemic, Preble Street was housing veterans in 60 to 90 days, Hodgkins said. But as the pandemic set in, it started taking closer to six or nine months to find housing for homeless veterans. Consequently, the number of homeless veterans started to build up, he said.

Additionally, he said, there are now more chronically homeless veterans – those who have experienced homelessness for 12 months straight or at least four times totaling 12 months in the most recent three years.

Now Preble Street, with support from the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services and the VA, is trying to bring those numbers back down by finding homeless veterans long-term, stable housing and supporting them in remaining housed. Through the “No Veteran Homeless” challenge, they are incentivizing landlords to house veterans by offering bonus payments of at least $1,000, $1,500 insurance policies and providing all veterans with a caseworker to create a financial plan for paying their rent through vouchers, subsidies or income.


“This is something they’re going to feel great about and it’s a really great business decision,” Hodgkins said of landlords.

The effort to end veteran homelessness in Maine mirrors a national effort by the Biden administration.

The VA announced in March its goal to permanently house at least 38,000 veterans experiencing homelessness in 2023 and ensure at least 95% of those veterans remain housed.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough listens as Dr. Nathaniel Cooney, Chief of Mental Health for Maine Veterans Affairs, speaks during a panel discussion about veteran homelessness at the University of Southern Maine in Portland on Friday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Nationally, veteran homelessness has fallen significantly in the past decade and change. As of March, veteran homelessness had dropped by 11% since early 2020 and more than 55 percent since 2010, according to the VA.

Still, McDonough said there is more work to do.

“I believe the phrase homeless veteran ought not to exist in our language,” he said.

Long-term, ending veteran homelessness in Maine will require increasing the housing stock and affordable housing stock, and working with partner organizations to provide homeless veterans with a wide range of resources, including support remaining housed, healthcare and mental health resources, Pingree, King and McDonough said during the roundtable.

Just as veterans can become homeless for many reasons, solving veteran homelessness will likely take many resources and significant creativity and strategy, they said.

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