Poverty & Homelessness in Maine
Posted by sarah brown on October 25th, 2017
More than 70 people attended a recent public forum addressing homelessness in Brunswick. Panelists from Tedford Shelter, The Gathering Place, Brunswick Police Department, Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program, Catholic Charities, and Sweetser provided a compassionate profile of homelessness that avoided negative characterizations of individuals and instead concentrated on the systemic causes of poverty.
Here are some surprising facts about poverty, food insecurity, and homelessness in Maine and our local community.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines poverty as, “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.” Absolute poverty, extreme poverty, or destitution refers to the complete lack of the means necessary to meet basic personal needs such as food, clothing and shelter.
- According to the Maine Equal Justice Partners, approximately 43,000 Maine children are living in poverty. Of those, almost 20,000 are living in deep poverty – half the poverty level. Between 2011 and 2015, the rate of deep child poverty in Maine increased faster than in any other state in the nation – eight times the national average and more than twice the New England average.
- Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program Soup Kitchen serves over 150 lunches per day, six days a week. Last year, over 1000 households were served in the MCHPP Food Pantry. In Brunswick alone, about 1 in 10 persons visited the pantry in 2016.
- Maine ranks 7th in the nation and 1st in New England for food insecurity. Roughly 203,000 Mainers struggle with hunger, more than the total number of people living in Portland, Lewiston, Bangor, South Portland, Auburn, and Biddeford combined. A person is considered food insecure if they lack access to enough food to ensure adequate nutrition.One in six Mainers is food insecure, while the rate among Maine children is even higher: nearly one in four children in Maine experiences food insecurity. (Hunger Pains: Widespread food insecurity threatens Maine’s future, Good Shepherd Food Bank)
- Tedford Housing provides emergency homeless shelter for single adults (16 bed shelter) and families (6 apartments, totaling 29 beds) in Brunswick. According to the report, Homelessness in the Southern Midcoast: Implications for Shelter Capacity and Services, over 400 individuals approached Tedford for shelter for help last year, and only a quarter could be directly helped with shelter housing. Likewise, 300 families called Tedford last year, and only 22 were able to be sheltered.
- The Gathering Place, a day shelter located on Tenney Way, serves 75-100 people per day.
- As of June 2017, there were 60 homeless students in the Brunswick School District.
- Homelessness is a complicated issue, with many underlying causes. Maine’s Plan to End & Prevent Homelessness, published by the Maine Housing Authority (updated June 2017) provides a blueprint for meeting the needs of several homeless populations, and induces action steps to end and prevent homelessness.
In addition to resources listed above, United Way of Mid Coast Maine coordinates 211 Maine. 211 Maine connects Maine callers to information about health and human services available in their communities and is part of a national movement to centralize and streamline access to health and human service information and resources. People can call, text, or search online to find help with basic needs (food, clothing, shelter), heating assistance, elder care, transportation, and more.
Business complaints prompt Brunswick discussion about homelessness (The Forecaster, October 12, 2017)
Forum ponders plight of poverty: Uptick in complaints triggers discussion in Brunswick (The Times Record, October 13, 2017)
Nation’s poverty rate drops, but Maine’s does not (Bangor Daily News, September 15, 2016)
Maine Voices: Research shows how childhood poverty squeezes Maine businesses (Portland Press Herald, May 1, 2017)
Homelessness in Maine down, shelters still full (WGME, Friday, April 7th 2017)
Homelessness in Maine drops 9 percent (CentralMaine.com, July 11, 2017)