What Maine Is Doing to Increase Affordable Housing Options
The lack of affordable housing is a common problem in Maine as it is in the rest of the United States. This widespread flaw causes more people to be at risk of homelessness. Those who live on an extremely low income struggle to make ends meet, and a lot of the time, their income is not enough to pay their monthly rent in addition to paying the utility bills, buying food, handling transportation expenses and purchasing prescriptions. Both families and individuals face homelessness as a result of living on very low incomes. Some of them end up in extreme debt when bills go to collections and fees pile up. As Mainers enter the winter season, it's more important than ever for them to find access to affordable housing.
Housing Statistics for Maine Residents
In a report issued by the National Low Income Housing Coalition on Friday December 11, more than 27% of all renting households in Maine are people who live on an extremely low-income basis. Extremely low income is defined as at or below the poverty line or below 30% of the area's median income. The lack of affordable housing is most intense in the middle coastal area of Maine, but it exists everywhere. It means that people have longer stays at emergency shelters. Many people are turned away due to the lack of beds or available rental units. In Tedford, ME, the city's public housing and emergency shelter department had to turn away 266 individuals and 133 families in fiscal year 2020.
Barriers to Securing Permanent Housing
People who live in an extremely low income situation have a lot of barriers to securing permanent and affordable housing. These are also the same people who have the highest risk of homelessness. Some of the barriers this population faces include mental health problems, no or bad credit, the inability to secure a job that provides a consistent income and past felony convictions. Rental companies often refuse to rent to these people. Private landlords might, but they may also require a huge security deposit that isn't affordable for most families or individuals given their low-income status.
What Tedford's City Housing Authority Is Doing to Help
The Tedford Housing Authority offers each of its clients social work and case management services to help them get rid of those barriers. They offer emergency shelter, supportive housing and homelessness prevention services. They also go out into the community where the homeless people live and offer outreach services. The social workers function as housing navigators. They aim to help each client find suitable and affordable housing. If a person has trouble accessing community resources or housing vouchers, Tedford's Housing Authority provides assistance. They also help clients find landlords who are willing to work with them given their personal situations, such as a felony conviction.
Other Factors That Contribute to Homelessness in Maine
There are a lot of other factors that add to the problem of homelessness in Maine. Many low-income families and individuals spend more than half of what they earn on their monthly rent. This doesn't leave much for anything else, such as medical bills, heating or food. Area food banks are overwhelmed with the number of people in need of food assistance. Maine's long, cold winters mean high heating and electricity expenses, and a lot of people fall behind. The city offers a "Warm Thy Neighbor" program. It provides emergency heating bill help to people who qualify based on their low income. The state offers programs, too. Those include the Maine Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Residents of Cumberland County can make use of its Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) for low-income families and individuals.
What Social Workers Expect for Homelessness in Maine in 2021
More Mainers have to spend a higher and higher amount of their income on housing. As this increases, they will be at a higher risk of homelessness. This will lead to more demand on emergency shelter and other support services throughout the state. Community organizations are already at their breaking point as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The community organizations helping low-income people in Maine strongly encourage people to contact their city council members and state legislators and urge them to support more financial assistance and programs to prevent homelessness. They also encourage Mainers to contact their Congressional representatives and urge them to pass another COVID-19 economic relief bill that will provide funding for communities and individuals in need.
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