The proposal drew hundreds of written and public comments. And at Monday night’s council meeting, Cullen Ryan of Community of Housing of Maine urged the city instead to focus on bringing unhoused people inside.
“By insisting that everyone deserves to come inside and by ensuring that we have the capacity for that, we can empty encampments and eliminate the need for sweeps,” he said.
Supporters of the measure argued that forcing people to move from place to place is dehumanizing, and allowing campsites in more spots around Portland could ease crowding at the largest encampment at Harbor View Memorial Park.
Street outreach worker Michael Fletcher said recent encampment sweeps have made it more difficult for unhoused people to consistently receive social services.
“From the sweep back in Bayside Trail, there’s still people we’re looking for that we don’t know if they’re alive or not. And it’s been incredibly hard to try and keep eyes on people, and you know, keep their paperwork straight,” he said.
The city was largely opposed to the idea, fearing that tent encampments could proliferate, strain police and public health resources and create safety hazards this winter.
Meanwhile, the city says that more than 150 beds are expected to open at the municipal-run Homeless Services Center in the coming weeks.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.