Homeless program launched in Portland

Posted July 08, 2010, at 11:33 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Homeless people are getting a helping hand rather than a ride to jail when they’re disorderly under a new initiative in Maine’s largest city.

The Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement Team project provides outreach workers who patrol Portland’s downtown to help people living on the streets, many of whom suffer from mental illness or substance abuse problems.

The program is modeled on one in Burlington, Vt. It aims to take homeless people to shelters and programs that will assist them, rather than to jail. Officials say it also helps downtown business owners who can call workers to handle people who are being disruptive or intimidating.

The program is funded with a $100,000 community development block grant and other contributions.