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February 23, 2022

Maine launches statewide service hubs in new strategy to reduce homelessness

A new statewide plan will form nine hubs to run services for Mainers experiencing homelessness.

The strategy was recently announced by MaineHousing. Contracts for nine service hub coordinators were awarded to local partners across the state.

“The award of these contracts is a critical step in a more than two-year process of reforming our response to individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Maine,” MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan said in a news release.

“Guided by the work of the Statewide Homeless Council, this redesign will put Maine ahead of the curve in the U.S. We are looking forward to working with our regional partners and Community Solutions to move the goal of solving homelessness forward.” 

In June 2020, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, a supportive housing policy organization in New York City, started a year-long process to help MaineHousing and its advisory committee, the Statewide Homeless Council, redesign Maine’s homelessness response system. 

That resulted in a final report that recommended the creation of nine Homeless Response Service Hubs, each staffed by a hub coordinator. 

Unlike other staff whose primary role is supporting programmatic, compliance or organization-specific goals, the coordinators will be responsible for coordinating and tracking system-wide efforts to reduce homelessness across the entire hub. The coordinator is dedicated to setting up and sustaining a “command center” approach that includes:

  • Convening and facilitating a cross-agency collaborative team
  • Working to achieve quality, real-time hub-level data
  • Tracking hub system performance metrics
  • Managing a centralized prioritization and housing referral process 
  • Working with hub team members to identify problems and undertake system improvement projects.

The command center strategy aims to ensure that all activities and investments are driving measurable reductions in overall homelessness at a population level rather than a program level.

“Our mission is to mobilize community resources to address the most pressing needs,” said Liz Cotter Schlax, president and CEO of the United Way of Southern Maine. “This innovative model will lead to greater coordination, collaboration, and equitable alignment of local resources that address the complex needs of those experiencing homelessness.”

This strategy has been informed by MaineHousing’s and the Statewide Homeless Council’s participation in Built for Zero, a national initiative of more than 90 communities that have demonstrated the role that systems play in reducing and ending homelessness. 

“Safe and supportive housing is central to ensuring the health of Maine people,” said Beth Hamm, deputy commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

In June 2021, Maine joined Built for Zero and is only the second state to launch a statewide strategy through Built for Zero. Built for Zero communities work to reach functional zero, a measurable end state where homelessness is rare and brief.

The Built for Zero Maine state team was officially launched this month, with a mission to remove barriers preventing Hub teams from reaching their goals.

The first step in implementation was awarding the nine hub coordinator contracts. The contracts were awarded to the following agencies:

  • York County: York County Community Action Corp.
  • Cumberland County: United Way of Southern Maine
  • Midcoast, including Sagadahoc, Knox, Lincoln, Waldo counties and the towns of Brunswick and Harpswell: United Way of Southern Maine
  • Androscoggin County: Lewiston Housing Authority
  • Western Maine, Franklin and Oxford counties and the towns of Livermore and Livermore Falls in Androscoggin County: Western Maine Community Action
  • Central Maine, including the counties of Somerset and Kennebec: Volunteers of America Northern New England
  • Penquis, including the counties of Penobscot and Piscataquis: Community Health and Counseling Services
  • Downeast, including the counties of Washington and Hancock: Community Health and Counseling Services
  • Aroostook County: Aroostook County Community Action Program.

In May, hub teams will enroll in the national Built for Zero collaborative. The hubs will work to collect real-time, by-name data of those experiencing homelessness. From there, the hub command centers will use the data to make the strategic investments needed to reduce homelessness. 

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