People wait Wednesday in a downpour for shelter inside the South Parish Congregational Church in Augusta. The church has furnished 25 spots for homeless people to sleep. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

On the night of Jan. 25, 2022, a collaborative group of state and local homeless service providers counted 3,455 homeless people in Maine, both in shelters and unsheltered, a two-thirds increase over the 2021 count.

Just over half of homeless individuals were alone or in households without children.

There were 155 homeless unaccompanied youth, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines as any individual under the age of 25 who is not with another household member over the age of 25 or with their child or children. Eight were unaccompanied children under the age of 18.

Nearly 200 homeless individuals self-reported as active-duty veterans.

Every year, HUD requires that Continuums of Care — regionally based collaborative groups of homeless service providers — conduct a count of all sheltered and unsheltered homeless people on a single night in late January in a survey called the “point-in-time” count. Organizations also gather demographic information, such as age, race/ethnicity and gender. They also collect data on people fleeing domestic violence situations, people with substance use disorders, mental illnesses and veteran status, among other characteristics. These are mostly self-reported and usually only a partial snapshot of the demographic makeup of all homeless people in a region.

Though it is an estimate of homelessness and likely an undercount, HUD officials say the point-in-time count is an important way for local agencies to measure the scope of homelessness in their regions and it also determines federal funding for programs to address homelessness.


Most Continuums of Care groups gather this information directly from their states’ Homeless Management Information Systems, which is where all publicly and privately owned shelters submit data on the number of occupied beds. Such facilities include the Bread of Life shelter in Augusta and St. Martin de Porres in Lewiston.

Counts of unsheltered people, however, are somewhat less reliable because they involve attempting to count people seeking refuge in places like parks, abandoned buildings, cars and other places outside of homeless shelters.

According to HUD, that number comes from a literal count of homeless people “with a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport or camping ground,” on the night of the count. If a complete census of all unsheltered homeless people in a region is not possible, organizations are required to take a sampling and provide an estimate using HUD-approved methodology.

Due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and changes to the point-in-time count over the past few years, it is difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison of homelessness in Maine going back to 2007, which is the first year that data is available through HUD Exchange.

For example, the total number of homeless people counted in 2022 includes for the first time homeless individuals staying in hotels funded by General Assistance and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Those individuals accounted for 2,476 people out of the 3,291 total sheltered homeless people counted, according to Maine Housing.

Also 956 individuals were in transitional housing on the night of the count, which was reported to HUD but not included in the final point-in-time count. Those individuals would bring the total number of homeless people in Maine on that January night to nearly 4,500.

Because of safety concerns related to COVID-19, the 2021 point-in-time count did not include unsheltered people in the final count of 2,063 homeless people. Even without the inclusion of unsheltered people, there was only a slight difference compared to 2020’s count of 2,097 homeless people, which did include people who were unsheltered. In 2022, there were 164 unsheltered homeless people in Maine; in 2020, there were 141.

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