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In Maine's tough housing market, 'No Homeless Veteran' challenge nearly meets 100-day goal

Willie Jefferson, 66, was looking for a fresh start after moving to Maine earlier this year. Preble Street helped him find a one-bedroom apartment in Gorham.
Nicole Ogrysko
/
Maine Public
Willie Jefferson, 66, was looking for a fresh start after moving to Maine earlier this year. Preble Street helped him find a one-bedroom apartment in Gorham.

Back in August, the Portland-based nonprofit Preble Street and veterans organizations around Maine announced a goal of finding permanent housing for 100 homeless veterans within 100 days.

The group has nearly met its goal; Preble Street estimates roughly 80-90 veterans were placed in housing during 100 day challenge.

Dan Hodgkins, senior director of social work for Preble Street, said the group made contact with more than 300 landlords around Maine over the last 100 days. Many had extra apartments available and agreed to rent them to a veteran, he said.

The new incentives, including a $1,000 bonus if landlords agreed to a yearlong lease and access to a risk mitigation fund to cover any damage or unpaid rent, also helped.

And though Hodgkins said landlords expressed interest in specifically helping a veteran during the challenge, he's hopeful that the experience will reduce the stigma associated with homelessness.

"What we're demonstrating is with the right resources, we really can house people, and get them into permanent housing, and hopefully stable in that permanent housing," he said.

The program successfully found housing for a father and his children living in their car, and Hodgkins said single veterans were matched with apartments in Bangor, Augusta, Waterville, Lewiston and Auburn and some rural areas.

The initiative found housing for some veterans in Cumberland and York Counties, though Hodgkins acknowledged that Preble Street is eager to find more available units in those especially competitive rental markets.

Hodgkins said the "No Veteran Homeless" challenge will be extended, with the goal of housing another 100 veterans over the next 100 days. The initiative is part of a broader effort to effectively end veteran homelessness in Maine by June 2025.

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