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How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting those experiencing homelessness in Maine

The Maine State Housing Authority is providing funding to put some who experience homelessness in hotels to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

BANGOR, Maine — The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on just about everyone, including many vulnerable members of our community like the homeless.

Many organizations in Bangor are working to get as many of them into housing, even if it's just temporary.

"We would love to end homelessness," Torelin Jaeger said.

Jaeger works for the city of Bangor as the boots-on-the-ground homeless liaison. The COVID pandemic has put her challenge into high gear.

"I'm not saying this wasn't important before, it's just with this new added element it's very important we get people somewhere where they're going to be safe," she added.

About a month ago, a COVID-19 outbreak  occurred at one of the city's shelters.

RELATED: COVID-19 outbreak identified at Hope House shelter in Bangor with 20 total cases

Penobscot Community Health Center's Hope House had 20 guests test positive for the coronavirus.

"They were quarantined in a hotel," PCHC CEO Lori Dwyer said.

The folks who tested positive for COVID-19 are on one floor of an area hotel. Those awaiting results are on a different floor. There's also a 'COVID free site'.

"So it is for individuals who are un-sheltered who don't have a home but who need shelter during the course of the pandemic," Dwyer said.

PCHC is able to place people in hotels for 30 days because of funding from Maine State Housing Authority. This funding is for people who have been living on the streets, not those already staying in shelters. Dwyer says there is a real push within the state to get people into housing, even if it's temporary.

"Particularly in the context of a pandemic to keep them safe as well as to avoid any sort of community spread," she said.

Also on the agenda is improving operations going forward, in terms of infection control in the homeless community and shelters.

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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