Portland weighs how long homeless encampment can remain – Press Herald

28July 2020

For close to a week, homeless people have been camping outside of Portland Town Hall in a call for the city to address their requirements. Volunteers provided food, medical attention, clothes and other supplies to 150 people there. Michael Kelley/ The Forecaster PORTLAND– Homeless individuals and advocates vow to not leave Municipal government Plaza till their demands are fulfilled, and city councilors are weighing for how long they will allow their encampment, which has triggered the closure of Municipal government, to continue. The

protesters will remain until “they approve our demands or till they kick us out, “said Jess Falero , a community organizer with the Maine Individuals’s Housing Coalition. Camping tents shelter the homeless at Municipal government Plaza. Michael Kelley/ The Forecaster “Even then we are going to not go away,”Falero said Sunday.” This is long overdue. Our concerns are being dismissed. We understand what we require and we are no longer taking no for an answer.” The City board is set to discuss at its Aug. 3 conference if or how much longer the demonstrators can occupy the plaza. The encampment began July 22, and since Tuesday, Adam Rice, of the Maine Peoples Real estate Coalition estimates there were 50 to 60 individuals staying there overnight and upwards of 200 visiting during the day for food, water, shade or treatment. The group is demanding the city decriminalize camping out; defund the police and reallocate that money for medical and psychological health services; develop overdose prevention websites; extend expulsion freezes and consist of those impacted in the planning process for irreversible budget friendly housing.

The encampment violates city guidelines because of the number of individuals included and the length of their stay, but city councilors Monday suggested they would not support asking the people to leave at this point. Under city guidelines, the council needs to authorize occasions that last more than three days and an authorization is required for occasions with more than 25 participants.

City Supervisor Jon Jennings on Monday briefly closed City Hall after personnel there revealed security and health issues. The staff is now working from home.

Given that July 23 authorities have actually reacted to 12 calls for service at City Hall Plaza including 2 drug overdoses, 2 medical calls, a sexual assault, terrorizing and a fight.

“There is a great deal of activity I have worry about from a public security perspective,” Portland Fire Chief Keith Gaudreau stated.

City Manager Jon Jennings has closed down City Hall since of his staff’s safety concerns about the encampment. Michael Kelley/ The Forecaster Employee also were worried that numerous demonstrators are not wearing masks or social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and Jennings stated there were likewise problems about human excrement on the plaza and tobacco and cannabis use in the middle of the presentation.

Councilor Pious Ali visited the encampment Sunday and recommended others from the city do so too prior to Aug. 3 when the council will go over if encampment can continue or should move to another area, such as was the case in 2o11 when city authorities allowed the Occupy Portland group to move from City Hall to neighboring Lincoln Park.

“I hung out there the other day and what I saw was people ready to work with us,” Ali said Monday.

Councilor Belinda Ray recommended the Cross Insurance Arena could be utilized as a momentary space to house and offer services to the protesters, similar to was done last summer for asylum seekers at the Portland Exposition Building.

“I do not wish to merely move this to a less noticeable place and not be doing what we require to be doing to fixes the problems,” she stated.

Charlie Amerson, who has actually been remaining at the Town hall site for the last few days, stated the greatest problem he and other homeless people have today is access to bathrooms, especially now with Preble Street Resource Center transitioning its resource center into a brand-new 40-bed homeless shelter and other public locations, such as the Portland Town Library, are closed due to the pandemic.

“There is actually no where for us to go,” he stated.

The Maine Peoples Real estate Coalition is raising cash for a mobile shower unit and Health and Human Providers Director Kristen Dow stated Milestone Healing on India Street has actually provided making use of its showers and bathrooms in between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Preble Street, Dow said, likewise is looking into briefly resuming their resource center’s restrooms facilities in a minimal capacity.

Access to restrooms is also the primary issue for Mary Thompson, who resides in a vehicle with her daughter.

“I would ask (city authorities) to supply porta potties where they are required,” said Thompson, who has been homeless given that her husband died in 2013.

Thompson was looking to sign up with the encampment Sunday.

“The homeless get together. It’s sort of like a huge household,” she stated.

Adam Rice, a member of the Maine Individuals’s Real estate Union, stated he wants the city to do more for the homeless.

The presentation, he said, is about “showing public officials how many individuals are overlooked of their policies” and neighborhood members that “they are not invisible, that they’re liked, and they should have to be successful and live their finest life.”

“We require desperately to highlight these weak spots in our city and detail how to fix them,” he stated. “There are people with the answers, but our council requires to listen and take their lead for a modification. Company as normal got us here and it is time we all do better. If we interact there is no end to what we can accomplish in the vein of making Portland more fair and equitable for all its citizens.”

Rice stated the action from the neighborhood has actually been frustrating and at times has actually brought tears to his eyes.

“Folks have been dropping off food, drinks, medical products, and offering their time around the clock to ensure we can fulfill these folks’ fundamental requirements,” Rice said. “Thanks to our volunteers, folks have had the ability to lastly sleep through the night and feel safe.”

Amerson said he hopes this demonstration “lights a fire for the city to do something.”

“We aren’t requesting for the world. We are asking for what everybody else has. We wish to be dealt with as part of this society like everybody else,” he said.

Jennings stated he understands the concerns, but addressing them involves policy choices that need to precede the City Council.

Remarks are not offered on this story.

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