I support the bill L.D. 1717, “An Act To Support Homeless Shelters.” Part 1 of the bill would allow allocated funds to a district to stay within the district it was designated despite the closing of a shelter. Part 2 would call for additional funding for these homeless shelters, for a total of $750,000.
According to testimony presented at the public hearing on Jan. 28, by Thomas Ptacek of Homeless Voices for Justice, Maine has experienced a 26 percent increase in homelessness. At times, shelters cannot accommodate the increase in need for homeless adolescents.
This issue affects every citizen in Maine and is not isolated to homeless individuals. How are children to focus on education if they do not have shelter? Where do they obtain funding for food? Why are medical and mental health costs increasing for this population?
The answers lie in providing the basic needs for those who need it most. The trickle-down effect of providing a safe environment will reduce costs in the judicial system, reduce unwanted teen pregnancy and increase the graduation rates.
As a social worker, I can provide numerous firsthand accounts of testimony from teens who want to better themselves and their situation. Yet they have difficulty focusing on the future when they struggle to survive day to day.
It is important to keep in mind this issue affects all of us. The cost for funding may seem like an extravagant expense, but not funding homeless shelters will only increase the costs in medical, mental health, crime and dropout rates.