MaineHousing Releases Report On 2024 Point In Time Homelessness Assessment

Released: Jun 6, 2024

**(EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this release included an incorrect subject line)


AUGUSTA – Waning pandemic-era funding and the conclusion of emergency hotel and motel shelter programs has resulted in a decrease in the homelessness figures in Maine during the latest Point-in-Time Count, conducted on January 23, 2024.

This annual count by each state is a federal requirement used to assess homelessness nationally as part of the determination of federal funding aimed at combatting homelessness.

This year’s count in Maine shows 1,031 fewer people experiencing homelessness than the 2023 count; however, the reduction does not necessarily represent fewer people experiencing housing crises and homelessness.

"The annual Point In Time count is one important assessment tool for understanding homelessness but it is important to remember how limited it is, by its very design,” said MaineHousing Director of Planning and Research, Jonny Kurzfeld, Ph.D. “The count provides a detailed view of homelessness at a single point it time, which is valuable for comparing year to year changes. However, that view necessarily lacks context about homeless trends and policy changes, creating a real risk of harmful misinterpretation of the data."

The unusual variation in the count over the past few years is the result of the COVID19-related housing relief programs and funding during a specific timeframe having a marked but finite effect. That is in addition to the effects of the pandemic itself, which directly impacted housing issues and the delivery of homeless services, further complicating direct data comparison.

This point-in-time data collection effort, organized by the nine regional Homeless Hub Coordinators, still remains an important exercise resulting in valuable education and outreach, direct aid (including the distribution of donated food, water, clothing and blankets on the night of the count), improved communication and collaboration between outreach workers, and a stronger and more dynamic system that is improving the quality of the data being collected. The annual assessment in Maine also helps raise awareness and refocus outreach and response work statewide and locally.

The most recent report on the data, as presented to and approved by the Maine Continuum of Care today, attempts to parse these changes and explains that while the top lines may have decreased, homelessness and housing instability remains acute for many populations in Maine.

“In the 2024 report, we pulled apart the sheltered count to distinguish between those in conventional shelter settings and those in motels that were mostly paid for by COVID-19 relief programs,” Kurzfeld said. "By making this distinction, we observe that the increased 2022 and 2023 counts were a byproduct of the sudden increase in availability of low-barrier, no-cost shelter options. It is only due to those programs no longer being available that we see a decrease in the total count for 2024."

Those programs provided no-cost hotel and motel shelter in hotels and motels to individuals and families, those who likely otherwise would have relied on informal housing solutions, and often unsafe, solutions to their housing needs  such as doubling up, couch surfing, or even staying in exploitative or uninhabitable situations. Such housing arrangements are often unobservable to us or not classified by HUD as experiencing homelessness.

Just as numbers increased because pandemic-funded programs allowed those experiencing housing instability and homelessness to be readily counted, the loss of these programs has also decreased our ability to count these subpopulations among the unhoused.

You can find a full copy of the 2024 Point In Time Report here.  

MaineHousing Logo Icon

©2022 MaineHousing. All Rights Reserved.
MaineHousing does not support or endorse external links.
equal housing opportunity logo icon  EQUAL HOUSING OPPORTUNITY

26 Edison Drive, Augusta Maine 04330
(800) 452-4668 | (207) 626-4600
Fax: (207) 626-4678 | Maine Relay 711