City’s Homeless Struggle to Keep Warm

1/25/2013 -

City’s Homeless Struggle to Keep Warm
Cold temperatures add hardship to city’s vulnerable populations

PORTLAND, Maine –This week’s cold snap serves as a good reminder to the public that on any given night more than four hundred and twenty-five people within the community experience homelessness and seek emergency refuge at one of community’s six overnight shelters. These men, women and children are particularly vulnerable to the weather and often in need of help or assistance from the community to stay warm. The City of Portland’s two emergency shelters are currently seeking donations from the public that will be distributed to those in need. Suggested items include new blankets, coat vests, gloves, mittens, hats, scarves, earmuffs, long underwear and warm winter socks. Donations to the shelters have been down compared to years past. Members of the public interested in making donations can make arrangements by contacting the city at (207)761-2072.

In response to the cold temperatures, the Oxford Street Shelter has been opening early at 1:30 PM and has coordinated with other local shelters to ensure that warm space is available throughout the day. Staff is also going out at night to known outdoor locations where people who are homeless are known to be to encourage them to seek shelter and offer transportation to Oxford Street. Additionally, staff has been providing winter gear to those in need.

The City of Portland operates two emergency shelters, the Oxford Street Shelter and the Emergency Family Shelter, which provide critical serves to the community’s most vulnerable populations. Currently, approximately eighty family members and 250 adult men and women are seeking emergency refuge at one of these shelters. Due to increasing homelessness and need for emergency shelter, the city in partnership with Preble Street has had to expand shelter capacity by opening a community overflow shelter. With the beginning of the downturn in the economy four years ago, the number of individuals experiencing homelessness within the city has increased by twenty percent year after year.

The city opened is first emergency shelter for homeless adults nearly twenty-five years ago. Since, the city and community have been committed to ensuring that anyone in need of shelter has access to a safe space to warm up or stay overnight. Last year, the Oxford Street Shelter was able to find permanent housing for nearly five hundred men and women, and the Emergency Family Shelter served more than two hundred and fifty families.

Individuals experiencing or on the verge of becoming homeless are encouraged to contact (207)775-6315 for information about emergency shelters and basic needs. The Oxford Street Shelter Support Services Team (Housing Counselors) is available between the hours of 1:00 PM - 8:00 AM to assist homeless individuals. Families in need of assistance should contact (207)772-8339. Other suggested donations from the public for the shelters include towels, backpacks, rain gear, underwear, flip fops, and toiletries.