April 22, 2013

For Portland's homeless, onward to the next encampment

Following a fatal tent fire, a crackdown on the West End's homeless has many moving to other parts of Portland.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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A campsite in the woods along West Commercial Street, just behind Danforth Street, has been cleared, its former denizens displaced.

Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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David Belibeau pours himself a beer in the woods of West Commercial Street, where homeless camps are being cleared after a man perished in a tent fire earlier this month.

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Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said police try to get people who are camping out connected with city outreach workers, and they also enforce criminal trespass orders.

"The goal is to really work with them to get them the assistance they need and get them plugged in with proper services," he said. "We can't make them do that. At end of day, the last thing we want to see is people out sleeping in the woods."

On a recent afternoon in the area beneath the Casco Bay Bridge, one man huddled under a sleeping bag, his hiking boots and a beer parked next to him. He woke, but declined to be interviewed and after changing into clean socks and pulling on his shoes, he disappeared down a trail.

Another man wearing a large backpack spotted a reporter and photographer, turned around and was gone.

Often, people who live outside don't want to draw attention, for a myriad of reasons.

"There is a feeling of being shunned," Arbo said, referring to the shame some people feel at not having their own place. "Whether you're homeless or not, you have some degree of honor, some degree of pride."

Lynch says she knows several homeless people who fill out job applications regularly but get no offers. They worry that employers may have seen them around Portland and judged them unfit for work because they are homeless.

Lynch knew Barbour, even though he didn't want services.

"Brian was a really nice gentleman. He worked at a few of the waterfront businesses. He was on a couple fishing boats out of Gloucester," Lynch said. "He was a very, very nice man. I was really saddened to hear of his death out there."

Barbour's death gets a lot of attention because of the fire, but in reality, people in the homeless community are dying all the time, Lynch said. She knows of two who died after a brief hospitalization last week.

"They all know they're vulnerable. Sometimes it can spark initiative for folks. Sometimes it sparks more hopelessness," Lynch said. "It's hard to say what inspires someone to actually let us help them. (But it) is a privilege for us when somebody allows us to help them get to a better place."

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@mainetoday.com

 

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Additional Photos

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An unidentified man with little left to lose changes his socks after sleeping underneath the Casco Bay Bridge last Thursday. Declining to be interviewed, he disappeared down a nearby trail.

  


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