February 23, 2024
YouTube Thumbnail of Michael Beck giving public comment to Bangor City Council with the headline, "Housing in Bangor: How About Some Action?"
Public comments about the lack of ARPA funds allocated to the housing crisis, substance use disorder, and mental health issues in Bangor, Maine.

Last night I went to the Bangor City Council meeting to point out that this week’s ARPA workshop had nothing to do with the top crises this city faces: housing, substance use disorder, and mental health. I started my comments with an editorial written in 1974 about the Bangor housing crisis. To read those words, it feels like nothing has changed nearly 50 years later. In fact, it’s only gotten worse.

Transcript of the video

The current squeeze on housing in this area is becoming tighter and tighter.

The situation combined with the acute lack of decent housing has resulted in a deplorable outlook for prospective tenants, which we’ve come to call the housing crisis.

More and more tenants every day are forced to accept housing that they would not otherwise accept.

It’s come to be a “take what you can get” scene.

The housing crisis, like most crises, is not insurmountable. What we need are some officials, city and town planners, tenants and private developers with a little imagination, a little knowledge, and a lot of persistency and willingness to work together.

How about some action?

Well, confession, those are not my words. That’s actually lifted from an editorial about the Bangor housing crisis written on October 8, 1974.

So here we are, almost 50 years later, and we just got 20,480,000 dropping our laps from Uncle Sam.

And this Wednesday coming up, were we talking about housing?
Nope.

Are we talking about SUDs?
Nope.

Are we talking about mental health?
Maybe middle school health clinic there.

But we are talking about cameras downtown on the waterfront, but we’re talking about a portable stage replacement and EV charger as well.

Sounds sarcastic, but I’m frustrated. I keep coming. I keep bringing instructions. Here’s how to use affordable housing. Here’s something the Treasury wrote for affordable housing.

Here’s examples of affordable housing.

Yet week in and week out, we’re not talking about affordable housing. We are excited about the YMCA.

We’re excited about everything else, but we’re not focusing on housing and SUDs and mental health. And these are real crises.

And I feel like, especially with mental health, the last time I mean, you guys spoke to Acadia.

And they gave you a lot of information. And I feel like this meeting at least would have been a great time to sit down as a group and really look at what was shared with you.

Where are our priorities? I just, these things on this list, this is stuff that, you know, we talk about after we’ve taken care of all the big stuff.

When we come back around to, hey, guess what, we still have this much money left over. Maybe we can do something about this.

I’m asking again, please, please, please put the focus back on housing, back on substance use disorder and back on mental health.

Those are the crises we’re facing right now. This is rescue money. Please rescue us with it. Thank you.

Councilor Schaefer’s comments

I just want to comment on that really quickly. We have had meetings about SUDs we have had meetings with Wellspring we have had meetings with various housing we’ve already earmarked a chunk of money for housing and we’re waiting for that.

And this is that sort of okay and then here’s the other things if we can work on spending some of this money across the city, then it’s this and so your comment just now makes it sound like that’s the only thing we’ve talked about and you know as well as we do that that is not the case.

We have had several meetings about housing about SUDs about mental health. This is the last of how many, like the fifth or sixth meeting that that we’re having to say okay great so like then what can we do that where some small dollar things that we can do what are some little things that are that would have an impact.

I just want to make sure that that’s clear that this is not the first meeting and it’s not the only thing that we have discussed. Thank you.

Well, I’d like to respond to that if I could.

We’ve been having meetings for 50 years.

And we keep having meetings. So far the best solution I’ve heard come out any of this as well let’s go ahead and have a beauty contest with a bunch of nonprofits and we’re just going to spread the money around like Rip Taylor from the Gong Show and throw it out like confetti.

Okay, we need a real plan.

Having a bunch of nonprofits come up and say well can I have 25,000 for this and 5000 for that and 10,000 for that that’s not a plan. You know, we need a real plan from real leadership that says hey, we know exactly how many houses we need.

We know exactly how many people are how unhoused, we know their names because we went out and got them. And now this is what it’s going to cost, and we don’t have enough money to do it all.

But you know what now we know how much we need to come up with. So these meetings and I appreciate the fact that you’re having meetings.

But the solutions coming out of it and these allocations we’re making earmark allocation before we even know what the total need is that makes no sense.

You know just like our budgets at home. You know we know what our rent is because we know what it is we don’t just say well you know what we got $300 for housing this this month.

We do know what the problem is and you address that problem. That’s that’s what I’m trying to say is that the needs are great but we need a full comprehensive plan and put the money for that plan.

That’s what I’m saying.

Thank you.