According to the yearly surveys conducted by the Maine State Housing Authority, homelessness has more than tripled throughout the state since 2019, especially in Cumberland County.
At the same time, the state has given vast amounts of taxpayer money to the largest homeless shelters in Portland.
According to tax filings, one such organization, Preble Street, brought in $34,328,653 in government funding from 2019-2022, While Shalom House, another similar organization in Portland, brought in a staggering $79,834,717.
That money doesn’t include other taxpayer resources, such as services provided by the city or General Assistance.
Despite the massive taxpayer resources committed to these organizations to fight homelessness, the situation for Portland residents, hoping for a clean and safe city, has not improved at all.
In 2019 The Maine Housing Authority reported a homeless population of 1,215 in a survey that counts homeless people on a single day.
In 2023, the same survey counted 4,258, with about half of that total being in Cumberland County.
The increase in the number of homeless surveyed also coincides with a consistent increase in the number of migrants entering Maine and filing applications for asylum status.
“The 2023 PIT also reflects an ongoing influx of asylum-seeking immigrants seeking shelter in Maine in higher numbers than was the case in both 2022 and 2021,” the Maine Housing Authority noted.
Sen. Matt Harrington (R-York) said that the funds would be better allocated on solving the underlying causes of homelessness, rather than sending millions to shelters which only treat the problem after it has already arisen.
“The dollars, being precious, I think we should primarily fund the underlying problem which, generally speaking is mental illness and substance abuse,” said Sen. Harrington.
Although the shelters aid individual homeless people, they have not, as the increase in homelessness attests, solved the root cause of the problem.
Amid the growing homeless population, Portland Rep. Grayson Lookner (D-Portland) made a proposal on Thursday for a bill to require cities with over 20 homeless people to set aside areas for them to set up tents.
That proposal failed unanimously.
The city of Portland, however, seems poised to de-criminalize loitering in public parks and on public property, as long as the loiterers are homeless.