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Chronic homelessness is growing in Maine, a survey suggests

Eesha Pendharkar
Bangor Daily News
File photo of Bangor officials assisting a man struggling with homelessness to take a bus to Connecticut.

The state is seeing a sharp rise in the number of residents considered "chronically homeless," according to a one-night survey conducted in January.

The state counted more than 4,200 people experiencing homelessness in its latest Point in Time Count — which was similar to last year's numbers.

More than 1,000 of those residents are considered chronically homeless — a sharp uptick compared to previous years. MaineHousing Director Dan Brennan says that the lack of affordable housing is making it impossible for some residents to find housing.

"I would say there might even be two types of chronically homeless in the moment," says Brennan.

"One is traditional, chronically homeless, who have been really, really hard to house. Coupled with folks who are just really finding it hard to move through the system, and get into housing, who otherwise might have solved, had housing inventory been back what it was several years ago."

But Brennan hopes that a legislative proposal to create a statewide "Housing First" program could help to bring that number down.

"So I think that long-term that is going to provide a resource that we've never had before. And we're very excited about that," Brennan says.

Over the last few years, Maine's Point in Time Count has included people staying in hotels funded by general assistance and other emergency rental programs. This year's numbers also include nearly 800 people staying in transitional housing.

Brennan says that another factor reflected in this year's numbers is an increasing number of families arriving in Maine seeking asylum.