Homeless Crisis in the County Reaches Critical Point, Shelters Fill Up as Winter Approaches

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 7:46 PM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -According to Community Partners, The Homelessness Crisis in the county is at it’s worst point yet. and with limited shelter space, many people are concerned with the upcoming winter months. Newssource 8′s Corey Bouchard takes a look at the problem currently being faced by the county.

Heidi Rackliffe - Director of Programs - ACAP " This is not something that’s gonna go away tomorrow and i hate to say this, but Aroostook county is just beginning to see the reality of what is going to happen, it is going to get worse before it gets better”

Homeless Services of Aroostook offers the county’s only general emergency shelter in Aroostook county, which means they are the only shelter that offers beds to a wide variety of individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Over the past few months , they have been at capacity.

Harold Hull - Residential Service Manager - Homeless Services of Aroostook” If we get to about 37, 38 people we are basically full and we have gotten to that point in the past few months... at that point we do have to deny and we try to do our best to lead them to other services in the community”

Community Services, Like ACAP, are working to address the lack of bed space at the shelter in a variety of ways, including Emergency Rental Assistance.

Heidi " I think it’s really important that we’ve done stories previously where we mentioned that there is over 100 individuals accessing hotels across Aroostook county. what’s really important is that this program we participated in, in which all of the community action programs across the state have taken this task on, it was a contract to fufill to avoid homelessness from happening in the first place, I think that’s really important. We have given out over $19Million to Aroostook County Landlords and that is huge and only 5% of that has been to individuals experiencing homelessness for them to be placed in a hotel, so really small percentage of those funds.”

As a last resort, they are also offering some tents, which Rackliffe says are not, and were never meant to be a sustainable solution, especially with the upcoming colder months.

Lisa Mclaughlin - CEO - Homeless Services of Aroostook " Everything is well aware i believe at this point what the urgency with the situation with cold weather coming... And there’s not an easy solution to homelessness, it is multi leveled and it’s gonna take a community and not just this community, it’s gonna take the whole of Aroostook county to help address all the issues.”

Heidi” This is the perfect storm, this is a multitude of issues that have transpired, not because of one specific thing, this is long waitlists of mental health providers, this is limited access to substance abuse facilities, this is lack of affordable and safe housing”

One Misconception that both organizations would like to address is where people currently experiencing homelessness in the county are from, according to ACAP, around 90% of homeless in the county are from the county.

Harold”A majority of people that stay here are from Aroostook county”

Heidi”These are local individuals, we do outreach, there is no  other entity in this community that does outreach to this population...but it’s really hard to say send them back to where they belong when they belong to Aroostook county”

Mclaughin says while there is still a significant amount of work to be done to solve the homelessness crisis in the county, they are working on options to expand their services,

LISA " Right now, our board is discussing various options that we have to try to house more people, some of them might be in here, we might be able to rearrange things more, we are also looking at other property, but right now there is nothing solid, but we are definitely working on them.”

In the meantime, other options for assistance and solutions are being offered to individuals and families experiencing homelessness, including, in some cases assisting with relocation to where a family or support system is located. Corey Bouchard, NS8