By Natalie Boomer
A single mother has been evicted from her apartment in Belfast after missing a few months rent. She turned to the city for help and they offered her a tent and camping gear to house her and her two children until she could get back on her feet. Although Belfast city officials were quick to help her, Jodie Stout, Belfast General Assistance Administrator told the Bangor Daily News that the city will not be able to offer temporary housing or a hotel room when the weather is nice in the summertime.
Municipal General Assistant state law is a program where Maine’s Department of Human Services reimburses the Municipalities for those in need. The General Assistance program is administered by each municipality in order to provide immediate help to eligible people who do not have enough money for basic needs. (cityofbelfast.org).
The need for temporary housing in Maine has recently become so great that a wait list for tents has been created. Even if someone is given a tent they are required to ask permission to camp on private property. Additionally, there are no community campground in Belfast. According to data provided by the Continuum of Care Program to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2,516 people in Maine have experienced homelessness since January 2018.
Mike Ellis, City Manager for Calais says “fortunately Calais has not had a problem with homelessness as the community organizations have been excellent, especially our local food bank. We can use the General Assistant program but have not had any request for it.”
The single mother, Angie is now spending her nights on different friends and family members couches while her two children spend most of their time at their father’s house. “It is a little discouraging to be told that all we have to offer you is a tent,” she said. “It really is actually blowing my mind, too. I didn’t realize there was such a need.” Although large cities like Bangor and Portland have homeless shelters available, small towns do not. Allison Harrel of Searsmont has started to work on raising awareness on the issue and hopes to get donations to buy tents and camping gear.
Harrel says, “We have a gap in our support system in Belfast, Waldo County, and all over Maine. We need citizens and our city working together to tackle the problem and provide solutions for our community. City officials have shown their willingness to support citizen-led philanthropic efforts, and that’s what it’s going to take to move the needle on this issue in Waldo County: conscientious, innovative, hard-working, and contributing people coming together to face the problem, take action, and ultimately, find more long-term solutions.”