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Maine lawmakers consider substantial funding boost for low-barrier homeless shelters

A pedestrian walks by the Maine State House, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP file
The State House in Augusta at dusk on November 9, 2022.

Maine lawmakers are considering several measures to bolster the financial health of low-barrier homeless shelters.

The system of five privately-run low-barrier shelters is facing an annual deficit of nearly $4 million.

In response, the legislature's housing committee on Tuesday took up a proposal that would boost state shelter funding by $10 million next year. Another would increase reimbursement rates to low-barrier shelters, and also require the state to seek a waiver to access federal Medicaid funds.

Democratic Rep. Amy Roeder said that Bangor's Hope House shelter is already on the brink of closure.

"If Hope House closes, our hospitals , our one remaining shelter, and our warming centers will collapse under the weight of our community's need," she said.

Advocates say that the low-barrier shelters fill in a crucial gap in the state's homeless service system, as they don't require background checks and provide treatment for many residents with mental health challenges and substance use disorder.

Advocates are pushing for a substantial funding boost for Maine's low-barrier homeless shelters.