PORTLAND, Maine — Maine currently has more than 200 homeless veterans living without shelter, according to the Preble Street organization.
It's a number that is new, as the state worked to reduce that number to single digits before the pandemic. State officials said during a roundtable Friday the unhoused population of veterans doubled just in the last year.
"The idea that we even have to put these terms together, homeless and veterans," U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said.
She was joined by Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough.
At the roundtable at the University of Southern Maine Friday, officials announced a new campaign to house every veteran that is homeless in the state.
They hope to house veterans experiencing homelessness by June 2025.
Preble Street also announced it would be working to house 100 of those veterans within the first 100 days of the campaign.
"The shelters are crowded. There is not enough space, and alleviating that problem will help open up more space as well," Aubine Ntibandetsay said.
Ntibandetsay is a caseworker for Preble Street and deals exclusively with homeless veterans.
"They're not getting enough resources. If they're low-income, there's no way they can afford a place. There's also a stigma about homelessness. You have this idea you can't get housing, but everyone should have housing since it is a basic human right," she said.
The details of the proposal to house every veteran said it would require the support of landlords.
The Preble Street campaign said landlords and tenants will have a financial plan to pay for the rent.
Veterans will also keep receiving the same casework and other services they were receiving while living on the street.
There are also incentives financially.
Preble Street said that landlords will receive a bonus of $1,000 if they have a veteran leased for up to one year.
There is also a 'Landlord Risk Mitigation Fund,' according to a press release, which can reimburse a landlord up to $1,500 for damages and unpaid rent that the security deposit does not cover.
If you are a landlord interested in housing a homeless veteran, Preble Street is asking people to apply here.