The Portland Press Herald
— The last few years have been especially tough on Portland's homeless women. With the 2007 closure of the YWCA, the only refuge for one of the city's most vulnerable populations has been a stop-gap shelter at the Preble Street Resource Center.
That should change with the construction of Florence House, a $7.9 million project between St. John and Valley streets that will provide permanent and shelter housing for 50 homeless women. Builders broke ground last week and expect it to open by early next year.
The new facility is based on the ''housing first'' model that has dramatically altered the way that homeless services are provided. It has long been recognized that while some people seek shelter when they have a temporary housing crisis, others will be homeless for years, ringing up most of the costs of shelter bed-nights and mental-health and substance-abuse services.
In programs like Portland's Logan Place, chronically homeless men receive permanent housing before their other needs are addressed.
A 2007 census of Mainers in such programs found that residents not only showed better progress in treatment than they did when on the street, but that services were less expensive to provide. The men were also less likely to turn up in an emergency room, jail or homeless shelter, taking pressure off those institutions and saving money.
Florence House will have 25 permanent housing units along with 15 for women with mental illness and another 10 emergency, overnight beds. As the experience with Portland's chronically homeless men shows, this kind of housing program is not only humane, it's also cost-effective.