AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) – Some people caught in an affordable housing crisis in central Maine tell TV5 the problem could get worse soon.
A number of hotels in the Waterville and Augusta areas are expected to implement changes on November 1 that some customers say will leave them on the streets.
“There will be a lot of families who will have to find a place to camp because there is nowhere to go,” said Melissa Blodgett, a mother who is studying for her bachelor’s degree.
Blodgett and his family have been living in a hotel in Augusta for two months. She says she received a letter from the hotel last week saying that from November 1 they will no longer be accepting long-term stays. This is around the same time that some hotels in the Waterville area will also stop accepting emergency rental assistance funds, according to KVCAP.
“I have section 8, can’t find affordable housing,” Blodgett said. “I found a few places, but they have 50, 60 requests each … A lot of these places charge a $ 25 application fee per adult or a $ 50 application fee per adult, and they get 50, 60 applications So in the short term it makes more sense not to rent the apartment because they receive more administration fees than they would with the rent.
A mental health case manager who spoke to TV5 says the housing crisis is making her job even more difficult, and she fears some Mainers may fall through the cracks.
“When you’re homeless, you can’t get a lot of the services people need,” said Jennifer Gorman, Mental Health Case Manager. “When a person needs mental health services, for example, and is homeless, it is very difficult for them to even reach out. People with physical needs, when they are homeless, make it difficult for them to want to reach out.
Another family landed at the same hotel as Blodgett after some members found employment with Bath Iron Works at a Texas hiring fair.
“We came here thinking accommodation might be a little hard to find, but we never expected it,” said Curtis Mann. “If you had told us that, yes, you would make $ 20, $ 22 an hour but you couldn’t find accommodation, I probably would have chosen to stay in Texas.
Mann says they spent all their savings on administration fees and live paycheck to paycheque on most, if not all, of what they earn on housing.
“I have another place to go, but they want around $ 960 a week,” Mann said. “It’s a choice between paying for that or getting rid of my animals. Well, I can’t get rid of my animals, so we’re going to have to figure out how to pay for whatever we have to pay.
“[There are] one or two bedrooms [apartments] for $ 1,800. That’s what I paid in New York, ”said Ashley Staples, a native of Maine and recently returned. “Here I would have thought it would have been a little easier to get back on my feet, and it isn’t.
Staples is staying at another hotel in Augusta and faces the same deadline of November 1.
She says she was abused by her ex before leaving with her now five-year-old daughter.
She is on waiting lists at shelters and working to find an apartment, but in the meantime she is faced with an impossible decision.
“It makes me wonder whether or not I should go back and be with him just so I don’t have to face this,” Ashley said. “My whole life has always been about trying to find a place to be my home, and right now I feel like I can’t even do that for my child.”
Everyone with whom TV5 spoke is calling on elected leaders to take action to deal with the housing crisis. Blodgett has specific ideas.
“My solution to that would be: in the short term, take a building. Find one of these buildings that is not in use at the moment and put camp beds there for emergency accommodation. And, in the long run, we need more affordable housing. It’s not doable at the prices they charge, ”Blodgett said.
In a statement, KVCAP states:
“KVCAP is fortunate and grateful to have the emergency rent assistance funds to pay people who stay in hotels while they seek permanent accommodation.
We have been informed that some hotels in the area will not be able to offer this accommodation option as of November 1st. KVCAP, MaineHousing and other various partners are fully aware of and are working to identify other temporary and / or permanent options that are safe and affordable for the people who will be affected. KVCAP can continue to work with them through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
KVCAP does not have funding, including FEMA funds, to provide hosting services. We continue to work with our hosting partners, but recognize that they are working to [or] close to the capacity too.
This problem will require a community effort to help these families make the transition to a safe housing alternative. KVCAP is ready to contribute to this effort in any way possible to ensure that families and communities are healthy and prosperous. “
In a statement, MaineHousing said:
“Regarding the situation of Waterville:
KVCAP has informed MaineHousing that some local hotels that previously accepted the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERA) will no longer do so. KVCAP identified the households that will be affected and worked with its ERA team and other providers in the region to identify transition plans.
MaineHousing is one of the organizations working with KVCAP to identify resources available to affected households. MaineHousing has worked closely with its partners to increase the number of rooms available under an existing agreement with an area hotel and the on-site service provider. We anticipate this will provide a resource for most of the affected households.
Regarding the availability of resources:
At the heart of the problem, in Maine and nationally, is the lack of available and affordable units. Section 8 is a federal program for which there is a waiting list in every state. For more immediate needs, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program is available. www.mainehousing.org. “
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