Knowing Maine’s homeless population aids program efforts to end homelessness
Maine State Housing Authority is coordinating the efforts of homeless shelters, outreach groups and volunteers who are participating in the annual Point in Time Survey of the state’s homeless population on Wednesday evening, January 30.
The annual census is required of all states at this time each year by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The count provides a snapshot of the number of individuals and families in shelters and on the streets on a given night.
Data collected on Wednesday night by these groups is sent to MaineHousing, where it is inputted into the Homeless Management Information System and subsequently analyzed to better understand the dimensions of Maine’s homeless population. The information facilitates the gaps and needs component of a complex federal formula by which HUD allocates funds for programs intended to end homelessness.
The information also is used by service providers, particularly the state’s two Continuums of Care, the Statewide Homeless Council and regional homeless councils, to plan programs that appropriately address what resources are needed in their communities to prevent and end homelessness.
Each year HUD solicits applications from communities to address the needs of those experiencing homelessness. This process is known as the Continuums of Care. In Maine, the Continuums of Care, one in Portland and one statewide, are former and current homeless individuals, advocates, service providers, governmental agencies and businesses who work together to provide a full range of emergency, transitional, and permanent housing and other services to individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
MaineHousing, through its work with the Continuums of Care, is involved at a support and administrative level. The agency develops the forms and methodology for distribution, administers training to assist communities with implementation, and generates reports on the information that is returned.
Last year’s Point in Time Survey, conducted on January 25, 2012, found 1,050 people were homeless that night. The figure does not represent the total number of people who are homeless in a year. The population of people who are homeless is counted by the number of bed nights spent at homeless shelters. In 2011, 7,725 unique individuals spent a combined total of 304,524 bed nights.
Attempting to connect with people who are not utilizing traditional shelters or services can be difficult in such a large rural state. This effort could not be done without the help of trained volunteers. Last year, the York County Maine Military and Community Network group (MM&CN) organized a PIT outreach effort in its area and were able to survey 51 people who would not otherwise have been contacted. This year, several MM&CN groups are hoping to replicate that effort in Androscoggin, Oxford, Franklin and Kennebec counties.
Other groups participating in the Point in Time Survey include: Tri-County Mental Health, Springvale Vet Center, Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, Oxford Street Shelter, the cities of Lewiston, Portland and Bangor, Journey House, Knox-Waldo Homeless Coalition, and homeless youth outreach groups including The Opportunity Alliance, Preble Street, New Beginnings, Kennebec Behavioral Health, Home Counselors Inc., and Shaw House.