New England

Maine City Provides Bus Tickets for Homeless During Frigid Weather

As a sudden cold blast grips New England, one Maine city is reviving a tool to help its homeless.

Officials in Bangor say they're once again buying bus tickets to send people with nowhere to live out of the city so they don't succumb to the cold.

"It's hard for people who aren't in the situation to understand completely what's going on," said Torelin Jager, the homeless outreach coordinator for the city of Bangor.

Jager says the program began last winter after shelters began running out of space as a last resort for people who could find no other place stay warm or were barred from shelters for a variety of reasons.

"The city wants our folks to stay housed here," she said. "If that's not an option, then we need to talk about what's best for them long-term."

So far, she estimates the city has spent $1,800 on bus tickets to send homeless people out of the city to places they either wanted to go or knew people.

To be sent to a relative or place of their choice, the person must first say they have no "natural supports" in Bangor and confirm they can't stay in a shelter.

"This isn't you show up and say, 'Hey I want a bus ticket,'" said Bangor Police Sgt. Wade Betters, who assists Jager with conducting checks on homeless camps. "We can't allow people to sit on the side of the road and freeze to death."

Some of the people who have made trips out of the city have also shown success.

One man whom Betters and Jager helped get to Florida has since found work as a welder after living in woods in the city for over a year and is "very grateful."

"He called us, said, 'I found employment, found an apartment there,'" said Jager, who added the city checks with shelters in warmer cities before assisting anyone who wants to go there without knowing someone. "It's a matter of getting people to the right places."

Still, the city would prefer a long-term solution instead of a short-term "common sense" fix.

"The solution would be to have more affordable housing in our community," said Jager. "There's not enough ... for people to move into."

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