(From left to right) Bangor City Councilors Clare Davitt, Dan Tremble, Gretchen Schaefer and city manager Debbie Laurie discuss the city's approach to spending its American Rescue Plan Act dollars during a city council workshop, March 13, 2023. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

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With the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds the City of Bangor has received a one-time opportunity to create a comprehensive response with concrete options to address the complicated crisis of permanently housing the homeless. I am writing on behalf of the Faith Linking in Action board to strongly urge the City to allocate a major portion of this money to organizations directly addressing permanent housing of unhoused people in Bangor.

Dignity First has applied for a Bangor City ARPA grant to build Dignity First Village in Bangor. This organization has been working to get unhoused people into permanent housing since 2019 using the Community First model. I am also a board member of Dignity First.

The Community First model creates an intentional community of both recently unhoused and intentional residents. The  Community First! Village of Austin, Texas began this model in 2015 and reports an approximately 85% retention rate of previously unhoused people. This model is being used in St. Paul, Minnesota and Tacoma Rescue Mission in Pierce County, Washington has been granted $22 million in ARPA funds to build their Community First village. Dignity First will be the only organization using the Community First model in the state of Maine!

Bangor is in a crisis situation regarding unhoused people. Here is an opportunity to follow a creative, proven model to get unhoused people into permanent housing. The decisions about distribution of the ARPA funds are underway. The Faith Linking in Action board urges everyone to support Dignity First’s Bangor ARPA grant request by talking to your city councilors!

Peg Olson