Homelessness Taskforce Updates

Resident Unhoused Population- September 19th Update 
The City’s Homeless Task Force was activated to again increase the efforts around addressing our Resident Unhoused Population, people originating in Sanford/Springvale (or the close Region) who have become or have been unhoused for an extended period for various reasons. The Sanford Police Department Mental Health Unit (MHU) tracks the number of contacts, interviews the contacts, and maintains a data base of the Unhoused and the associated reason/s for being unhoused. Due to the rapid increase in the number of Unhoused in the last year as well as the increased presence of financially unhoused, mental health and most dramatically Substance Abuse Disorder (SUD), the Task Force was activated to further address homelessness.

Task Force Meeting #4 September 11, 2023
City and Community Partners;
  • City Council Representation
  • Sanford Housing Authority
  • York County Community Action Corp.
  • Sanford School Department
  • Sanford Police Department and Mental Health Unit
  • Sanford Fire Department
  • York County Shelter Program
  • Opportunity Alliance
  • City Administrative Staff
The scope for the Task Force is to identify both short term and long-term solutions towards the coordinated address of homelessness within Sanford and the surrounding Region. Recognition is made of the dedication of resources and expertise by the Community Partners with the Task Force.

Current Stats: Reported by the Sanford Police Mental Health Unit (MHU)
Stat were updated as follows;
  • 151 Unique Contacts – up by 4
  • 83 Unhoused Known People reduction of 23
  • 30 remain as identified as having high probability of becoming housed using the Partnered Resources
  • 53 of the Unhoused will require greater case management and allocation of Resources
Services to those unhoused were reviewed as;
  • Porta Potties were ordered, one ADA and one Standard to be placed on Police Department Property to care and monitoring. (Units were placed on 9/12/23 with sharps containers, supplies, and Narcan)
  • Showers are available at the YMCA MHU paying the fees
Sanford Police Officer Cutler, formerly of Biddeford PD, presented on that City’s allowance of a centralized Homeless Encampment allowing for a centralized location for service providers, crime monitoring, and an organized location for trash, sanitation, and other services. The Task Force agreed to explore such an option, identify possible locations, and to examine the legal and logistical ramifications for creating such a location.

As time does not permit for the considered establishment of such a location this fall, the focus shifted to the start of the Warming Shelter pending for the Lafayette School location. The York County Shelter Program was awarded funding from Maine State Housing to stand up a Warming Shelter with a Resource Hub proposed to housed in leased space in the Lafayette School. The Lease is still under review with legal counsel, operating parameters are being solidified, and staffing in ongoing. The Shelter is to be operational by October 15, 2023. The York County Shelter Program is working with area neighbors to address any concerns they might have with the opening of the Shelter Program. It is important to note that a Resource Center to address the needs of people using the Shelter has been incorporated to lessen their need in the future by connecting resources around the cause of their need for shelter use.

The anticipated level of service will be for 42 Gravity Chairs for overnight use when conditions warrant. City Codes and Fire has inspected and approved for this level of use. Meals will be offered. A Resource Center will be open on the second floor staffed by the Portland Recovery Center and YCCAC and Sanford Housing dependent upon the resources offered. A permanent location, as Lafayette is temporary, is sought and a number of properties were put forth for consideration.

Further Coordination of Resources Provisions
The Partners comprising the Task Force are refining their knowledge of those that are unhoused within our Community as there are multiple contacts across multiple Agencies for many of these people. The coordination of these multiple contacts under the Coordinated Entry data base will preclude duplication and further expedite services across all Agencies.

YCCAC has imbedded a Case Manager with the MHU and their field work started the week of 9/11/23. Case Management form Opportunity Alliance, covering all of York County, presented on the best means to lessen the time and amount of required paper work/documentation to expedite the Coordinated Entry and will also coordinate across our list of people to better facilitate obtaining services.

Peer Support Center
The Center that closed on Washington Street, operated by Maine Behavioral Health, is still seeking a new location, but without success to date. The impact of their closure this past June has been both apparent and impactful within the Community as individual needs are no longer being met in their absence. Two more potential stop gap or temporary locations were identified and are being discussed with those facility owners/operators. Answers on each should be known for the next meeting.

Community Paramedicine Program working with the Mental Health Unit of the PD
City Administration was able to announce that the City has received licensure by the State of Maine EMS for a Community Paramedicine Program*. It was further announced that the State will award the City with a Grant of $100 thousand this year towards the first position.
*A Community Paramedicine program is a healthcare initiative that leverages the skills and resources of paramedics to provide preventive and non-emergency medical care within a community. These programs typically involve paramedics working beyond their traditional roles of responding to 911 calls and instead focus on services like home visits, health education, chronic disease management, and wellness checks. Community Paramedicine programs aim to improve access to healthcare, reduce emergency room visits, and enhance overall community health by addressing healthcare needs proactively and in a community-based setting.
A national model of how these coordinated resources connect has been brought by Deputy Chief Small from a recent training session. Although an extensive model, we observe the City has all of the components now or pending absent needing to address further capacities of mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) beds. The Program seeks to best coordinate our current resources around Pathways of diversion from crime to evidence-based treatment.

AmeriCorps Positions:
Sanford Housing Authority submitted an application for 4 Trained Housing Navigator/Case Managers through AmeriCorps for the August 31st application period and will also submit, as a backup, another application for the September 21st application period. This will provide, if awarded, 4 New Positions to be coordinated across all partnering agencies for case management and resource connections for our unhoused population.

Resource Hub 
Service Partners YCCAC, Sanford Housing Authority, YCSP, Nasson Health, and other providers have coordinated to set up a Temporary Resource Hub for the two weeks in October, the weeks of October 2nd and 9th. The Center will be open 9 AM-2 PM each date located in the parking lot of YCCAC off Spruce Street. The Resource Hub worked well in 2019 and seeks to provide services to the unhoused this fall prior to cold weather setting in for winter.

Housing First Model: Restated
Sanford Housing Authority is actively engaged in the Feasibility Study to purchase land, a developer to construct, and a partner to operate York County’s first Housing First Unit of 40 Units. The Facility once built will provide transitional housing for those needing 24/7 case management to make the transition from homeless to permanent housing and work. The Housing Authority will work on a Community Education and Capital Campaign as they work on a competitive Grant Application pending for October of this year. Maine State Housing indicates they can fund 12 such projects across the State and that 2 of those should be located in York County.

Mental Health Capacities:
The MHU continued to work with Maine Behavioral Health on a Memorandum of Understanding to allow more expedient access to mental health services within the Network and to streamline access without impacting the Sanford Emergency Department as is currently the situation. The MOU is now completed and outlines the role of the MHU as coordinating rapid referral processes meeting clients in the field, making crisis protocol assessments, consulting with MBH on individual cases, and then coordinating entry into services with or without the use of the Emergency Department at SMHC. This is a major step forward to better coordinate and expedite the provision of mental health services to those in need. It is a defining document of the roles of the MHU and MBH working in partnership.

York County Homeless Resources:
York County is scheduling a first meeting for the week of September 25th to discuss the expansion of Layman’s Way and other uses of County resources to address homelessness across the County.