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Task Force Lending a Hand to Sanford’s Homeless

At the City Council’s August 4 meeting, Sanford Police Officer Eric Small spoke about the work that he and Officer Paul Goldsmith are doing with the city’s Homeless Task Force. Officer Small is working full-time with Sanford’s homeless population as a primary point of contact and liaison to providers of services including housing, food and health care. He is assisted by Officer Goldsmith on a part-time basis.

In partnership with York County Shelter Programs and Calvary Baptist Church, a food pantry serving free meals at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays has been established at 62 High St., in a building owned by the Church. Take home meals are also available. It has been very well received and well attended, with over 70 attendees at recent meals. YCSP is currently seeking funding to be able to expand the meal program to five days a week.

Officer Small reported that at Tuesday’s luncheon, two newly homeless people were in attendance and were immediately connected to shelter, preventing them from having to sleep outdoors.

He has worked with property owners and with Parks and Recreation Director Alan Grady to keep areas where homeless people may congregate clean. Recently, he was accompanied on his rounds by a staff member from Nasson Health Care, to assist with getting people connected to needed services, including ID cards and EBT.

City Manager Steven Buck reported that the Task Force is working to establish a permanent resource center similar to Biddeford’s Seeds of Hope, and noted that cities with well-run centers see a decrease in homelessness and its associated impacts.

Mayor Tom Cote asked if Sanford’s homeless population is made up primarily of Sanford residents, or of people coming to Sanford from other areas. Officer Small replied that they are overwhelmingly residents of Sanford, many of them lifetime residents. He said that some have lost their housing, while others have housing vouchers, but no apartments are available.

Councillor Robert Stackpole asked if Officer Small was seeing an increase in the homeless population in Sanford, compared to last summer. The answer was yes, and he added that not only has the population increased, but the services available to them have decreased due to closures associated with the pandemic.

City Councillor Luke Lanigan pointed out that Small’s position is only funded for six months, after which he will be reassigned to other duties, and said consideration should be given to making it a permanent position. Police Chief Thomas Connolly also expressed hope that the position can be made permanent, but added that he preferred not to have to take money away from another area of the budget.

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