Most of us believe everyone should have a stable place to live and raise our families. And we all want the security of knowing that, as we age, we won’t have to worry about becoming homeless.

In early 2020, about 2,000 people in Maine were sleeping on the street on any given night – including 260 families. Those numbers have grown during the pandemic. Srdjan Randjelovic/

Imagine what Maine would be like if every Mainer had this. Imagine what we could all achieve if we didn’t have to spend time, money and our precious mental and emotional resources worrying about having a place to sleep; if no one had to cram into crowded apartments or sleep on the street, and if people didn’t have to stay in abusive relationships because leaving meant risking homelessness.

In 2017, I left my last abusive relationship for the last time, and went into St. Martin de Porres Residence, a shelter, because I didn’t have any place to go. I was in a shelter for three months.

I am very lucky, and these days, I have a great living situation and have gotten back together with friends I thought I’d lost. I’ve been able to mostly address the anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder from the many abusive relationships in my life, and have started working in Lewiston to make our community better for everyone.

But for so many Mainers, a lack of stable housing means they can’t feel the safety they’d need to address the issues in their lives; they can’t give back to their communities, and they can’t reach their full potential.

Let’s look at the facts: In early 2020, about 2,000 people were sleeping on the street on any given night – including 260 families. And according to recent public school data, an estimated 2,552 students experienced homelessness over the course of the year.


Those numbers have grown during the pandemic. But it’s not just homelessness. It’s housing insecurity – things like not being able to afford your rent or knowing you’re one car breakdown away from eviction.

Maine is a poor state, and the lowest-income among us – including a disproportionate number of non-white Mainers – are bearing the brunt of the housing crisis. In 2019, there was not a single county where someone earning the minimum wage could afford fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment. What’s more, 58 percent of extremely low-income Maine renters spent more than half of what they earned every month on housing.

Homelessness and housing insecurity are traumatic and destabilizing. Meanwhile, stable housing sets the table for us all to deal with the issues holding us back.

We all know this. So why aren’t we fixing it? The answer is, many people benefit from the scarcity driving up our rents and home values, and others just want to prevent growth – even if that means families crowded into too-small apartments, or people sleeping on the street. And some of those people don’t shy away from using nasty, divisive and often racist rhetoric when they try to convince us to ignore how they’re making all of our lives harder.

Some of the policies that drive housing scarcity are rooted in racism, and people who benefit from them keep them going by invoking racist fears. But make no mistake: In a mostly poor and mostly white state like Maine, these policies hurt all of us. And it will take all of us to change them.

Bills now in the Legislature will attack Maine’s housing crisis from several angles: through zoning reform and building more affordable housing (L.D. 2003), and making sure that those people who need affordable housing can get it by adding more funding for housing vouchers (L.D. 473).

There’s no one way to fix this problem – but we know we need to do it, right now. Let’s not let those who would divide us against each other, and hurt all of us, win. And let’s not wait another year to address this hugely urgent issue. Let’s do this.

Comments are no longer available on this story