Preble Street makes an application for brand-new shelter authorization amid regional opposition – Press Herald

14September 2020

The yard at Preble Street Resource Center is presently fenced off and closed. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The nonprofit social services company Preble Street is moving ahead with strategies to convert its daytime resource center on Portland Street into an ongoing shelter for 40 individuals, a proposition that has actually already drawn opposition from neighbors who say Bayside does not require another shelter.

Preble Street submitted planning documents to the city Aug. 28 asking for a conditional usage permit for the $700,000 project. The formal application comes as the neighborhood has a hard time to supply standard services to lots of unsheltered people, a lot of whom are investing their days at Deering Oaks and have no access to restrooms or other centers with private and public buildings closed throughout the pandemic.

Nevertheless, Preble Street’s proposed shelter is months far from opening its doors, assuming it wins city approval. And a separate proposal to utilize the Cross Insurance coverage Arena as a short-term day shelter has actually run up against logistical and legal issues, leaving no clear option as colder months approach.

Preble Street Executive Director Mark Swann estimated that more than 100 people are sleeping outside in the city, which because of public health requirements brought by the coronavirus pandemic, there will be an even greater strain on current resources when winter comes and is more difficult.

“For years, shelters stuffed in as lots of people as possible trying their finest to keep individuals out of the cold and out of the components,” Swann stated. “We can’t do that any longer. We’re going into a winter season with numerous people sleeping outdoors. It’s incorrect, it’s risky and it’s unhealthy throughout a public health crisis.”

If approved as developed, the Preble Street task requires knocking down most interior walls of the second flooring to develop an open idea style where shelter personnel would be on hand all the time for a limited lineup of approved customers, a so-called “closed” shelter that mirrors the rules at the emergency situation health shelter established at the Sullivan Gym on the University of Southern Maine’s campus throughout the spring. The Planning Board is expected to take up the proposal this fall.

Swann stated the experience at USM showed how offering individuals a safe location to stay every night, even for a couple of months, provided the stability and rest they required to resolve the underlying causes of their homelessness.

Prior to the pandemic, people lined up each evening to get an area in Portland’s main shelter or in an overflow area, and they needed to get up and leave each morning.

There would be no line each night for a bed at the Preble Street shelter, Swann stated, and all services would be offered on-site, 2 key requirements for city approval.

Preble Street’s yard at the corner of Portland Street– which before the coronavirus normally overflowed with clients smoking cigarettes and hanging out– will be surrounded by a 6-foot-high personal privacy fence, with the interior available only to shelter homeowners.

However the strategy has already met opposition. Sarah Michniewicz, president of the Bayside Neighborhood Association, stated Preble Street’s leaders have actually declined to engage with surrounding locals on quality-of-life problems and public security issues, and that any trust between neighbors and the not-for-profit evaporated long back.

Michniewicz said she would be more available to more shelter beds in the area after the city follows through on its strategy to build a modern-day homeless shelter near the Westbrook line in order to shut down the aging city shelter on nearby Oxford Street. Until then, she said, concentrating services for the state’s most vulnerable populations in one community will continue to be an unsuccessful technique, and a housing-first approach will continue to be the very best strategy.

“It’s circular logic,” Michniewicz said. “It’s created this feedback loop (of) ‘we need to do everything here because everything is here.’ The bottom line is this area is overwhelmed and it has actually been for several years. So the important things that I think we need as an area is a balance. which’s never ever been a conversation about eliminating all shelters in the community, or all social services.”

Portland City

Councilor Belinda Ray Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer Another opponent of the plan is City Councilor Belinda Ray, who represents the area. In July, Ray said Preble Street has actually been an adversarial next-door neighbor, at best, and questioned the company’s ability to meet the city requirements for a zoning exception.

The city’s staff has actually not weighed in on the plan yet– spokesperson Jessica Grondin stated administrators can only form a position when all the application paperwork is complete.

Although emergency situation homeless shelters are a fixture of metropolitan life across the nation, there is really little research on what constitutes best practices at them, stated Jill Khadduri, establishing director of the Center on Evidence-based Solutions to Homelessness.

Khadduri stated a recent qualitative research study of homeless encampments in 4 cities discovered that individuals are less inclined to remain at a shelter if they have to line up outside each night and leave early in the morning.

“Individuals do not want to go there if they can help it, particularly if they are trying to work, since that (design) is really disruptive to people’s abilities to stabilize their lives.”

Low-barrier, 24-hour shelters where individuals are guaranteed a bed are more desirable, specifically when they allow people to work and live more autonomous lives, she stated. Better still, she stated, is a fast transition to irreversible real estate.

“It utilized to be rather some years ago that people separated in between people who were ‘all set’ to be a leaseholder due to the fact that they didn’t have serious psychological health concerns or behavioral health problems, and individuals who required transitional housing in which they conquered their difficulties,” Khadduri stated. “There is extremely strong research revealing that individuals who are even considerably challenged do better when they have a place of their own, than when they remain in a location they can’t remain permanently, they are under guidance, and they don’t have full autonomy.”

Bobby Bergeron, a homeless male living in Portland, waits to go into Preble Street Learning Collaborative on Sept. 4. Derek Davis/Staff Professional Photographer The city has enabled individuals in its overnight shelter to stay 24 hr throughout the pandemic and likewise opened the Portland Expo to create more 24-hour shelter space, in addition to devoting 2 apartment buildings for individuals who had actually been exposed to COVID-19 and offering hotel rooms for lots more.

A number of the people who stay unsheltered have actually been disallowed from shelters due to the fact that of rule offenses or pick not to remain in them, in some cases since of psychological health or substance abuse issues.

Preble Street ran an extra 24-hour shelter at USM throughout the summertime, but that closed when the school was preparing for the return of students. The nonprofit closed the doors to its Bayside day shelter in March due to the fact that of the coronavirus crisis. Preble Street said that as numerous as 400 people every day visited their facility to utilize the restroom, shower, do laundry or get in touch with a case supervisor.

In addition, Preble Street closed its soup kitchen and rather is providing more bagged meals and food pantry services that do not require individuals to stand in line or crowd into a dining-room, and the modification away from a congregate dining setting is anticipated to be long-term, Swann said.

Although Preble Street managers state they have been operating in overdrive since the pandemic to alter how they run and continue to help people in need, the closure of the resource center and restricted access to the city’s library and other public and private structures around the city implies unsheltered homeless people have fewer places to go.

The absence of access to restrooms and other centers assisted result in a more than two-week-long protest encampment outside Portland Town hall this summertime, but the demonstration ended without any clear strategy about how to improve gain access to and services for those in the city.

Without any location to go during the day, homeless people have actually been congregating in Deering Oaks, just to be tossed out by authorities every night at 10, when city parks close. Authorities contacts us to the park have escalated since early July when compared to the same period in 2019, according to stats supplied by the Portland Cops Department.

Between July 12 and Sept. 3, calls to police concerning Deering Oaks almost doubled, from 149 calls last year to 293 in 2020, according to an authorities department tabulation. Alike, calls for service in the exact same period to the resource center and the soup kitchen area plunged.

One prospective short-term service to the crisis is the city’s proposal to utilize the Cross Insurance Arena as a day shelter where people could rest and use the restrooms.

Nevertheless, trustees of the arena are expected to advise versus using the 6,200-seat center as an emergency homeless shelter this fall and winter, citing security concerns, clashing contractual dedications and high staffing expenses, according to a draft letter from the trustees to Cumberland County Commissioners. The commissioners are anticipated to meet Monday to use up the concern.

The arena is not conducive to safely operating an emergency situation shelter, and would need modifications and staffing that would prove excessive, the trustees wrote. The paths from the arena’s floor area to the showers and bathrooms are too indirect, and offer too much access to “countless dark corners and passages” that could make the facility hazardous.

The arena’s insurance policy also does not cover shelter activities, and although up until now the pandemic has actually not needed it, the trustees currently dedicated to offering the area as an emergency care center if COVID-19 infections overwhelm regional hospital systems. The Maine Mariners are also set up to start their pre-season training in the late fall.

“We think about the Arena to be the public’s property; and acknowledge that in times of crisis, a facility like ours can be put to imaginative use in order to resolve problems and serve the common good,” the trustees composed in the draft interaction. “Because custom, the Board of Trustees approached the demand from the City with open minds and provided it thorough factor to consider– but we have figured out that for a host of factors, the Cross Insurance Coverage Arena should not be utilized as a temporary shelter.”

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