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Updated: July 12, 2023

Housing nonprofits laud creation of program to house the homeless

COURTESY / AVESTA HOUSING Huston Commons, a Housing First development that opened in 2017, is at 72 Bishop St. in Portland.

Portland nonprofits Avesta Housing and Preble Street said new state funding will have a major impact on the lives of people with chronic homelessness and complex needs.

The expansion of a program called Housing First in more communities across Maine was included in a budget package signed by Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday.

As defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Housing First is an approach to quickly connect individuals and families experiencing homelessness to permanent housing without preconditions and barriers to entry, such as sobriety, treatment or service participation requirements. The hallmark of the program is professional social work staff on site 24 hours a day providing support services, harm reduction, and crisis intervention to chronically homeless individuals to maximize housing stability and prevent returns to homelessness. 

Photo / Tim Greenway
Mark Swann, executive director, Preble Street

Avesta Housing and Preble Street partnered on the first three Housing First programs in Maine: Logan Place, Florence House and Huston Commons, providing 85 total units in Portland. 

The expanded program is expected to support the creation of 12 to 15 additional Housing First programs.  

Avesta Housing built, owns and maintains the buildings. Preble Street provides 24-hour support services to ensure that people who are making the transition to permanent independent housing will succeed. 

Avesta and Preble Street opened Logan Place, the first Housing First program in Maine, in March 2005. 

“That was the day we realized that this was a real solution to chronic homelessness,” said Preble Street Executive Director Mark Swann.

Florence House opened in 2010 and Huston Commons in 2017.

File photo
Rebecca Hatfield, president and CEO of Avesta Housing

“The lack of affordable housing and the number of people experiencing homelessness in Maine are at record proportions,” said Avesta Housing President and CEO Rebecca Hatfield. 

Since Logan Place opened, Housing First “has proven to be the most successful model to provide permanent housing stability for those who have been homeless for extended periods,” Hatfield continued. 

Besides reducing the number of people staying in shelters or living in encampments, vehicles, or on the street, Housing First is an evidence-based practice designed to save money and emergency resources. The number of police calls, emergency room visits, medical transports and jail stays for tenants of Logan Place plummeted, compared to the year before they moved into their apartments. 

The program targets people who are homeless the longest and have severe mental health and substance use disorders. 

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