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MaineHousing gathering better data to address homelessness problem

MaineHousing is working with Built for Zero to collect data from every inch of Maine about homelessness.

MAINE, USA — As of January, there were close to 4,500 Mainers experiencing homelessness, and people who work with them tell NEWS CENTER Maine that's far too many.

"There's no question that homelessness is a complex issue, but our Built for Zero team is showing that it's a solvable issue," Erin Healy from the New York City non-profit Built for Zero said.

The non-profit collects and analyzes data connected to homelessness. The information it collects is more in-depth and is collected more often than the annual reports MaineHousing used to work with.

"Is it all adding up to reductions in homelessness? That's the critical question, and if it's not, how quickly can we intervene and course correct," Healy added.

Maine is just the second state working with Healy's team, with the first being Colorado. MaineHousing staff said it's already been helpful.

"Because of the pandemic, we've been able to identify and help many more people who are experiencing homelessness through the use of hotels," Dan Brennan of MaineHousing said.

MaineHousing said it is collecting more accurate data thanks to Built for Zero and its funding for nine 'hubs' in the state. Those hubs include:

  • York County.
  • Cumberland County.
  • Midcoast, including Sagadahoc, Knox, Lincoln, and Waldo counties.
  • Androscoggin County.
  • Western Maine, which includes Franklin and Oxford Counties.
  • Central Maine, including the counties of Somerset and Kennebec.
  • Penquis, which covers Penobscot and Piscataquis Counties.
  • Downeast, including Washington and Hancock Counties.
  • Aroostook County.

By having these nine specific areas, they can really get into the community and talk to people to figure out how to fix the problem.

"I do trust that over time once that system is fully operationalized that we will see a positive impact in our communities," Brennan said.

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