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Coming Together to Solve Maine’s Housing Crisis- Part Three

This is Part Three of a special report
Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 7:33 AM EST
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Maine (WABI) - Tackling Maine’s affordable housing crisis is now a top priority at both the state and local levels in large part because of the pandemic.

But solving Maine’s housing crisis is going to take the entire community.

Joy Hollowell tells us how a national initiative is taking hold in Maine in Part Three of her special report.

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“I think we know we can solve it. We started with that belief that managing it is not enough.”

Melanie Lewis Dickerson is the portfolio lead of Built for Zero. The national initiative involves more than 90 communities across the country, all aiming to reach functional zero when it comes to homelessness.

“Which is a measurable end state where homelessness is rare and brief,” explains Lewis Dickerson. “So far, we’ve had 14 communities that have reached that goal.”

Maine is one of only two states taking this to the next level, implementing a state-wide strategy. Nine homeless response service hubs are now being created in different regions. Each one comes with a coordinator .

“They’re leveraging data in a new way, so moving towards having real time, comprehensive data on the issue of homelessness,” says Lewis Dickerson.

It’s the culmination of a process that started in 2020 to redesign Maine’s homelessness response system. ironically, the pandemic helped propel federal funding toward this effort.

“We have been receiving more money towards affordable housing in meeting our mission than we have in our history,” says Dan Brennan, director of MaineHousing. “Last year, we financed over 520 homes in Maine, apartment buildings. That’s a record for production.”

But it’s still not enough, particularly for Maine’s youngest population. The federal definition of a homeless youth is someone under the age of 21 who lacks having a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.

“Everything in here is free, so you’ll see that the community has continued to wrap their arms around us with donations.”

Joseph Hufnagel is the director of The Landing Place in downtown Rockland. They focus on young Mainers at high risk of falling into the homeless category. Upstairs are four studio apartments.

“The youth that live here are 18-21 years old,” says Hugnagel, showing off one of the studio apartments.

There is no limit on how long they stay, only an expectation that they have a job or attend school. A social work team from the Knox County Homeless Coalition in on site.

“Taking away that initial concern of where am I going to sleep tonight helps to stabilize and plan out the future,” he explains.

The drop in center below offers a maker’s space, free store, and areas for cooking and gathering.

“When the pandemic happened, we shifted immediately to how do we make connections with the youth and their families that would otherwise be coming in the drop in center,” says Hufnagel.

The answer came in the form of a tear drop trailer that they now travel all over the Midcoast with, delivering care bags along with emotional support.

“It’s a starting point like so many of our ideas,” says Hufnagel. “The hope is that we can start, have proven success, and how need and we can hopefully do more.”

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All programming offered by The Landing Place is available to residents in Knox County- including access to free therapeutic services and other life and skill building programs.

For more information on resources of find affordable housing in Maine, log onto https://www.mainehousing.org/

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Coming Together to Solve Maine’s Housing Crisis- Part One

Coming Together to Solve Maine’s Housing Crisis- Part Two

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