The following article was published in The Times Record on 5/3/19 and written by Jennifer Iacovelli, Tedford Housing’s director of development.
Between 2005 and 2011, Tedford Housing embarked on a campaign to develop six supportive housing facilities for previously homeless individuals and families. These buildings, located in Brunswick, Bath, Lewiston, Auburn and Augusta, offered permanent housing with key case management services attached to them. Tenants have regular leases and no predetermined or expected length of stay.
Supportive housing provides a vital platform for people to move forward in other areas of their lives like employment, education and improved health. Using a Housing First approach, Tedford Housing’s 37 supportive units provide safe, clean and affordable apartments with on-site case management for previously homeless individuals and families. Many are occupied by adults and families who have experienced disabling conditions like mental illness and/or substance abuse and/or catastrophic events like domestic violence that have resulted in homelessness. Many have had multiple shelter stays.
According to HUD, taking a Housing First approach means that individuals and families experiencing homelessness are quickly connected to permanent housing without preconditions and barriers to entry, such as sobriety, treatment or service participation requirements. While still a relatively new approach, it has seen some promising results in keeping tenants in housing and off the streets and/or out of shelters. Tedford’s supportive housing case management services include assistance with applying to available benefits such as MaineCare and SSI, referrals to job training and employment services, coordination of services with health care providers, crisis prevention, referrals to substance abuse counseling and treatment, assistance with basic living skills and mitigating landlord-tenant issues.
The services and resources that supportive housing provides are essential for people like Brian. Brian, 44, has lived in our Everett Street supportive housing unit since 2013. He had been in and out of homelessness, with several stays at Tedford’s adult shelter, since 2009. At one point, he had sold two cars and quit a job in Maine with the hope and promise of a job from a friend who was living in South Carolina, only to find out that the job fell through when he arrived. When he came back home to Maine, without a car or a job, his mom drove him to Tedford Housing.
The two biggest barriers to finding housing for Brian were high rents and location. His mother and daughter live in Woolwich so it was important for him to be somewhat close to them. His advice for people who find themselves in and out of homelessness as he did is to be patient. Finding housing can take time when you factor in the paperwork, searching and waiting for vouchers and available units. He was lucky to get the call from Tedford’s shelter alerting him of an open unit becoming available at Everett Street.
Located in the heart of Brunswick, Everett Street offers easy access to the essentials. The location is a quick walk to Hannaford, RiteAid, Curtis Memorial Library and to Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, where Brian also volunteers. Without transportation, it’s important for Brian and other tenants to be able to walk or take the bus. They can hop on the Brunswick Explorer from Hannaford and get to places like Walmart and Sweetser. Brian is thankful for the support he gets from Tedford and says they are “good people to work with.”
Brian says that the best part about living at Everett Street is the community. There are eight single studio units. People tend to keep to themselves, he says, but they are there for each other if someone needs help. He is appreciative of the support from case management and from the community, especially during the holidays.
The average length of stay for tenants at Everett Street is 4.2 years, and the average length of stay across all of our supportive housing units is 2.7. While evictions still do occur in supportive housing, some tenants also end up moving on to other permanent housing option and pay market rental rates. Many, like Brian, thrive in the supportive housing setting and have no immediate plans to move from their found community.