WILTON — With the end of the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program, many households that found assistance through the program will now have to face the bitter cold winter of Maine without a solution in sight.

“We had quite a few households that were in motels while we were searching to find them stable and affordable housing and they’ve had to move out because we’ve run out of money,” Kobi Perry, program director for Family & Health Services at Western Maine Community Action [WMCA], stated in a phone interview Dec. 20.

The impact of the ERA’s dissipating funds was seen in early November when it was reported South Portland’s General Assistance program was overwhelmed with residents who learned of oncoming evictions.

“So, we have people who are outside sleeping unsheltered in this cold weather,” Perry said. “All of the shelters are full, and for a lot of our clients, they have their rent paid for through the end of December. So, we’re kind of preparing for an onslaught of evictions.”

These have been on the rise with the Portland Press Herald reporting that courtrooms were beyond capacity for the number of evictions cases that were being processed, and it seems Franklin County could see the same issue at the beginning of 2023.

With the onslaught of evictions, attempts at government assistance failed to make headway as an emergency bill to provide direct checks and heating and housing assistance to those in need within Maine fell three votes shy of the two-thirds support needed to pass the legislation.


Now, as we move into winter, Maine is experiencing its highest rate of homelessness since 2013 with The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimating earlier this year 3,455 people were homeless in the state in both shelters and in unsheltered settings. By comparison, 2021 estimated over 2,000 people who were homeless statewide.

The Androscoggin County Commission authorized spending $520,000 to purchase 24 temporary modular shelters, as well as three other structures, to donate to the Twin Cities for a temporary homeless village. The village would house 48 individuals from January to May.

Here in Franklin County, the WMCA plans to purchase Mt. Blue Motel and Colonial Valley Motel and create 31 affordable apartments and three bedrooms for the homeless. However, Perry confirmed the sale has not yet closed and even with closure, there is no set date for when they will be open.

“Our hope is within a year, but with supply shortages, that could change,” she said. “My neighbor has been waiting six months for a garage door. There are shortages everywhere.”

WMCA is trying their best to help those in need and still encourages people to reach out to them if they are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness.

“We have a homeless navigator and a homeless case manager that works with folks and households to try to identify and secure safe and stable housing,” Perry stated.


“We have a process called coordinated entry, where some households have qualified for a section eight housing voucher, which if you apply through the centralized waitlist is a five to eight year wait,” she added. “And for some of our clients, we’re able to get them one within one or two months.”

Other community members such as church groups are also doing their part to aid in this crisis, but Perry stressed that kind of support can only go so far. “Churches don’t have a lot of money to give. They are very, very generous and kind people. And they also have limited resources. They can’t put a family in a motel for 30 days. That costs over $3,000,” she said.

Perry remains confident and optimistic despite the challenges being faced with housing issues.

“It can be tough, but there are also a lot of wins,” she said. “We house people every week. We just had a long-term person experiencing homelessness. He had been homeless for many years. And we just found him affordable housing yesterday. So, we celebrate those wins.”

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