Under a new state-wide strategy to address homelessness, announced on February 11 by MaineHousing, Aroostook County is among nine regions that will have a Service Hub Coordinator to help with the initial effort.
The state is implementing a scalable approach that has proven necessary and key to helping many cities and counties make progress in ending homelessness. In the initial stage of this process, contracts for nine Service Hub Coordinators have been awarded to local partners across the state, including Aroostook County Action Program.
“The award of these contracts is a critical step in a more than two-year process of reforming our response to individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Maine,” said MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan. “Guided by the work of the Statewide Homeless Council, this redesign will put Maine ahead of the curve in the U.S. We are looking forward to working with our regional partners and Community Solutions to move the goal of solving homelessness forward.”
In June 2020, the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), started a year-long process to help MaineHousing and the Statewide Homeless Council redesign Maine’s homelessness response system. This resulted in a final report that recommended the creation of nine Homeless Response Service Hubs, each staffed by a Hub Coordinator.
From June to December of 2021, MaineHousing, the Statewide Homeless Council and Built for Zero worked together to begin implementation of this statewide hub model, convening cross-agency teams in each Hub and setting a foundation for Hub Coordinators to establish command centers.
Unlike other staff whose primary role is supporting programmatic, compliance or organization-specific goals, Hub Coordinators will be uniquely responsible for coordinating and tracking system-wide efforts to achieve reductions in homelessness across the entire Hub. The Hub Coordinator is dedicated to setting up and sustaining a “command center” approach that includes:
- Convening and facilitating a cross-agency collaborative team
- Working to achieve quality, real time Hub-level data
- Tracking Hub system performance metrics
- Managing a centralized prioritization and housing referral process (Coordinated Entry)
- Working with Hub team members to identify problems and undertake system improvement projects
In many communities, success is often measured by program-level outcomes (we housed 30 people this month) versus population-level outcomes (homelessness decreased by 10% over the last six months). The command center strategy ensures that all activities and investments are driving measurable reductions in overall homelessness.
In northern Maine, the Aroostook County Homeless Stakeholder Group, convened by ACAP, has been meeting for the past five years. The group comprised of social service agencies, healthcare organizations, public safety officers, faith-based community leaders, housing officials, among others, has seen an alarming increase in the number of individuals experiencing homelessness over the past few months.
“Given the situation we are currently facing and the ongoing collaborative approach we have deployed here in The County to address the crisis that is homelessness in our community, we are pleased to partner with MaineHousing and stakeholders across our region and state to tackle this pervasive problem with new and innovative strategies,” said ACAP Executive Director/CEO Jason Parent. “Our regional, collaborative and coordinated effort, through the partnerships formed amongst the Aroostook County Homeless Stakeholders, align nicely with this new initiative.”
In June 2021, Maine joined Built for Zero and is only the second state to launch a statewide strategy through Built for Zero. Built for Zero communities work to reach functional zero, a measurable end state where homelessness is rare and brief.
“Homelessness is a complex problem that is difficult to solve, often because of fragmentation across efforts to tackle the issue,” said Portfolio Lead of Large-Scale Change for Built for Zero, Melanie Lewis Dickerson. “We are excited to partner with Maine as they make critical investments in statewide infrastructure to help reduce and end homelessness across the state."
This month, the Built for Zero Maine state team was officially launched, with a mission to “clear the path” and remove any barriers preventing Hub teams from reaching their goals.
The first step in implementation is awarding the nine Service Hub Coordinator contracts. In addition to ACAP in Aroostook County, the following organizations were awarded contracts to hire regional Service Hub Coordinators: York County – York County Community Action Corporation; Cumberland County – United Way of Southern Maine; Midcoast, including Sagadahoc, Knox, Lincoln, Waldo counties and the towns of Brunswick and Harpswell – United Way of Southern Maine; Androscoggin County – Lewiston Housing Authority; Western Maine, Franklin and Oxford counties and the towns of Livermore and Livermore Falls in Androscoggin County – Western Maine Community Action; Central Maine, including the counties of Somerset and Kennebec – Volunteers of America Northern New England; Penquis, including the counties of Penobscot and Piscataquis – Community Health and Counseling Services; and Downeast, including the counties of Washington and Hancock – Community Health and Counseling Services.
In May 2022, Hub teams will officially enroll in the national Built for Zero collaborative. The Hubs will work to collect real-time, by-name data of those experiencing homelessness. From there, the Hub command centers will use the data to make the strategic investments needed to reduce homelessness.