The scene at the Bangor waterfront has changed as the homeless population has been setting up encampments in the area. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

David Tille is regional administrator of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in New England and a U.S. Army veteran.

Ending veteran homelessness in Maine is within our ability to achieve, and landlords play a crucial role in helping us cross the finish line.

As regional administrator of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s New England Region, and a fellow veteran, I am strongly committed to ensuring that every person who has served our country has a supportive place to live and succeed.

HUD is working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide rental assistance to 238 veterans in Maine through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program. That program provides housing and intensive wrap-around services that address the root causes of homelessness and serve their needs. Because of the combination of housing and services, the HUD-VASH program has effectively decreased homelessness for tens of thousands of veterans nationwide.

One of the ways this program benefits landlords is by providing guaranteed income with reliable monthly rental payments through the local housing authority. It provides fair market rent for units and the support of an entire team able of support for both landlords and veterans to ensure housing stability.

Like so many across the country, veterans face rising rents, competition for fewer housing units, and other challenges heightened by the pandemic. This pandemic highlights the importance of programs like HUD-VASH, that ensure homes for people who diligently served our country.

And the program is working. Earl, a veteran and HUD-VASH recipient, told HUD that this voucher fundamentally changed his life.

“From the time I came out of the service in 1979 all the way up to 2018 I had never lived on my own,” Earl said. “To be able to walk into my own spot — my own apartment — was an amazing feeling.”

If you are a landlord interested in renting to a veteran with a HUD-VASH voucher, you can sign up on the free and user-friendly listing service, Padmission, at maine.padmission.com/login. Landlords with questions about Padmission can contact David Lambert, housing liaison with Preble Street’s Veterans Housing Services, at dlambert@preblestreet.org.

Sometimes, veterans aren’t even aware of the wealth of support available to them. That’s why it is vital that we proactively educate these men and women about their options.

If you know of a Maine veteran who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, the best way to help is to dial the Maine hotline at 2-1-1 or you can contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at: 1-877-4AID-VET.

Let’s make it our legacy to honor our veterans by ensuring that any veteran who is homeless and seeking shelter is never forced to sleep on the streets. Please do your part to end homelessness among our veterans.