Housing-first bill lauded as important step in solving homelessness crisis
Lawmakers in Augusta heard from dozens of people about the need for a "housing first" bill on Tuesday. It would be the first statewide model to employ the method.
The measure would create a fund in 2024 to develop housing and support services for people unhoused for at least 12 months. The housing fund would be paid for by using half of the state's real estate transfer tax revenues. The fund would expect to see around $10 million to $13 million each year.
Bill sponsor House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, said the bill would help solve homelessness in Maine by providing a "first and basic need."
"Because an ER rate or waiting room is not a home, nor is a shelter floor, a jail cell or under a highway underpass," she told the Housing Committee. "Nor can we expect folks who are currently experienced in this way of life to ever become their best and highest selves."
A full-time position would also be created within the state's health department to help coordinate mental health and substance misuse services for the program's residents.
Testimony was overwhelmingly supportive. Some providers urged lawmakers to make sure the support services are funded before the housing is created.
Gov. Janet Mills has previously expressed support for a housing first bill, saying she would sign one if sent to her desk.