Committee unanimously supports bills from Sen. Libby, Rep. Meyer to support youth homeless shelters

Posted: April 20, 2021 | Health and Human Services, Senator Libby

AUGUSTA — On Friday, the Legislature’s Committee on Health and Human Services voted in favor of a pair of bills to help youth homeless shelters better serve people in their care. LD 1076, “An Act To Support the Operations of Youth Shelters in Maine,” sponsored by Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, and LD 81, “An Act To Ensure the Safety of Children Experiencing Homelessness by Extending Shelter Placement Periods,” which is sponsored by Rep. Michele Meyer, D-Eliot, both received the unanimous, bipartisan support from the committee.

Sen. Nate Libby

“It’s a sad fact that every year, young people across our state find themselves without housing and in need of the help of a homeless shelter and its staff. I worked with three youth homeless shelters in Maine, to help them cut red tape, eliminate bureaucratic hurdles and gain the funding they need to better serve these young people,” said Sen. Libby. “I’m grateful to the committee for their consideration and strong support of these bills.”

“Young people experiencing homelessness in Maine need safety and security,” said Rep. Meyer. “These bills adapt our laws to better serve our state’s youngest residents who find themselves without safe, stable housing. I am glad the committee has voted in support of these measures. Extending the period of time that young people can stay in shelters will prevent many of them from finding themselves in unsafe situations.”

As amended, LD 1076 increases state funding for homeless youth shelters from $2 million annually to $2.5 million annually, which represents a restoration of the funds shelters received prior to 2005.

As amended, LD 81 would expand the amount of time a minor can spend at an emergency shelter from 30 days to 90 days, which would give shelters more time to find safe and stable housing for the minor. 

“Once families are aware that the intended outcome of a shelter stay is a return home and resolution of family conflict, and that child protective reports are rare and only made in the case of severe abuse and neglect as opposed to family conflict, they are much more likely to give consent for the shelter stay. It will also reduce the number of first-time homeless children who end up in unsafe situations because guardian consent was not obtained in the very short allowable time frame,” said Chris Bicknell, executive director of New Beginnings Inc. in Lewiston.

“LD 1076 will provide critical funding support to help Maine’s youth shelters keep the doors open, lights on, and remain fully staffed. Maine’s youth shelters and the staff that operate them serve as first responders for some of our most vulnerable youth and young adults in the state,” said Leah McDonald, teen services director for Preble Street in Portland. “The work done by these shelters is life-saving and transformative, but it is getting harder and harder for youth shelters to raise the funds needed to keep the doors open and hire the skilled workers needed to care for youth and young adults. While the operating costs of running a shelter have risen exponentially, the funding sources most shelters rely on have not. LD 1076 will provide a critically needed increase in funding allocation for these services.”

“Allowing more time and funding for youth shelters in the state would effectively increase the quality of rapport that can be built with youth and their support systems, allowing chronically homeless youth to have the time they need to build the bridges they need to support their transition into housing,” said Hanna Falkie, outreach coordinator for Shaw House in Bangor.

The bills face further votes in the Senate and House.