43 Percent Of This City’s Long-Term Homeless Have At Least $20,000 In The Bank

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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Thirteen out of 30 residents who have stayed at two Portland, Maine homeless shelters the longest have at least $20,000 in their bank accounts, while one resident has $161,000 in liquid assets, according to a shocking new report.

The state’s Department of Health and Human Services uncovered those surprising facts during an audit it conducted of Portland’s General Assistance fund last month, the Portland Press Herald reported.

The health agency analyzed the records of 90 shelter residents at the Oxford Street Shelter and Family Shelter and picked out the “Top 30 Stayers” based on how many “bed nights” they’ve spent at the facilities.

Included in the 43 percent of the “Top 30” who have more than $20,000 in cash — and besides the resident who has $161,000 in liquid assets — is one man whose bank account sits at $92,500.

The audit was undertaken as spending on the General Assistance fund — a state-mandated program that helps residents with food, shelter and utilities — increased from $5.6 million in 2009 to $10 million last year.

While most cities in Maine are reimbursed 50 percent of General Assistance expenditures, Portland and Lewiston — the two largest cities in the state — get back 90 percent of what they spend.

One factor that has likely contributed to the high ratio of relatively well-off homeless is a policy Portland has had in place since 1989 which allows shelter applicants to forego filling out forms that ask for financial information.

So many residents seemingly abusing public services is evidence that the city of Portland “is in violation of a number of and regulatory requirements, including but not limited to improper eligibility determination and reimbursement practices with respect to the operation of Portland’s Oxford Street Shelter and Family Shelter,” the health agency stated, according to the Press Herald.

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