Volunteers Fan Out Across Portland To Count Number Of Homeless People

Jan 24, 2018

About 30 volunteers spread out in Portland Tuesday night to count the number of homeless people. 

The annual "point-in-time" survey is part of a national effort to determine the rate of homelessness in each state, and the country.

But in a press conference before the count, Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling said it's not only about the numbers.  

"The most important is moment is that interaction that each one of us is going to have with somebody who is out in the street checking in, something I know a lot of you do everyday in your work," Strimling said, "and that is what makes the difference between the city of Portland and perhaps a lot of other communities in our country - that we check in."

In last year's survey, Portland accounted for 527 of Maine's total 1,188 individuals who were counted as homeless. That's about 44 percent of the state's total.

Organizer Christina Cook, of the Opportunity Alliance, says the city's relatively high rate of homelessness may be because it's regarded as a service center.  

"Oxford Street is a very low barrier shelter," she said. "A lot of shelters throughout Maine have higher barriers just for their own safety reasons or whatever. And the city, I believe, has a commitment to shelter as many people as possible and I think that might contribute to it."

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires homeless service providers who receive federal funding to conduct the annual estimate of the homeless population.