My photo was on the front page of this paper to accompany the May 6 article “Bayside at rock bottom: Portland neighborhood is under siege.” In the weeks since, I have received numerous messages from friends and co-workers wanting to know, “Is it really that bad?” My answer, regrettably, is “yes.”

I’m not interested in fear-mongering. The social services providers around the corner from my home are not the problem. We absolutely must protect and provide care for those struggling with homelessness. What concerned me most was this account from a man who called himself Trick:

” ‘You can get high down here without anyone giving you a hard time,’ he said. Minutes later, the 47-year-old Trick scored a quarter-gram in an open-air deal outside the resource center’s soup kitchen, where a busy dealer made two similar transactions in rapid succession. ” ‘This is the only neighborhood that we have – that we’re welcome in,’ Trick said. ‘Can you imagine if we tried this on the other side – in the Old Port?’ ”

Trick is right, and this is the fact I have the hardest time accepting. Predatory dealers freely selling to the folks directly outside the institutions that are trying to help them. It is unconscionable that this has become normal and acceptable in a neighborhood where our most vulnerable population is concentrated, trying to get help. And if you happen to be – as many in our homeless population are – struggling with addiction or trying to maintain sobriety as a critical step in getting your life back, this only kicks you when you’re already down.

If the open-air drug market and the violence that goes along with it – such as the shooting, probably drug-related, at 8:44 a.m. on the same Sunday that the Maine Sunday Telegram’s article came out – were happening in another neighborhood in Portland, it would be dealt with immediately and seriously. Can you imagine this becoming acceptable in the West End, Munjoy Hill or, as Trick mentioned, the Old Port?

Why the gross lack of equity among our neighborhoods? Why aren’t we doing more to protect our most vulnerable? Why have our social service providers, police department and elected officials allowed this to become the norm for our neighborhood?

This isn’t normal. Nobody deserves to live like this – homeless or otherwise.

Stephanie Scherer



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