People have been dropping items at the homeless encampment in Sanford’s mill district, which is causing problems, officials say, so they are telling people to stop bringing donations there. Meanwhile, a Resource Hub where those living outside or coach surfing can get help is poised to open Friday morning, Sept. 6 on the grounds of York County Community Action Corporation. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

SANFORD – A resource center where the city’s homeless population can get medical attention and connections to an array of services is scheduled to open Friday morning, Sept. 6, on the grounds of York County Community Action Corporation in Sanford.

The Resource Hub will be staffed by an intake and navigation worker from the York County Shelter Program, two triage staff members from Nasson Health Care and outreach workers from York County Community Action Corporation.

The hub will be open 8 to 10 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays through September in an effort to offer services that can help those who are homeless change their situation.

In the meantime, Sanford City Manager Steve Buck, some Sanford City Council members and Sanford Police are putting out the word that donations of tangible items should not be dropped at the encampment off Heritage Crossing.

“No contributions of personal and household items, such as toiletries, linens, furniture, etc., are currently being accepted,” said City Manager Steve Buck. “Please do not drop bedding, clothing or other items near the location of the encampment. These items contribute to clutter and unsanitary conditions for the people living there.”

Sanford’s Deputy Mayor Lucas Lanigan suggested police post a notice, notifying people of the littering laws.

“It seems like people are clearing their households. I’ve seen multiple bags down there,” said Lanigan at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Police Chief Thomas Connolly said he realizes people mean well, but that the random dropping of items at the encampments needs to stop.

“We have told people several times, and my officers have been instructed as of last week, to tell people not to drop stuff off at the campsites,” said Connolly. ”We are referring people to YCCA or another charitable group and tell them to earmark their donation for helping the homeless. While I understand that people believe they are doing a good thing, in reality their kindness would be better utilized if it was directed to a legitimate organization that can provide needed services. If we don’t stop this activity, we will end-up with mounds of property that will require city resources to get them removed.”

“Instead, please donate to the legitimate groups. In that way, the goods and funds will be used appropriately and distributed to those in need,” he said.

Those who leave “stuff” at the campsites will be charged with littering under state statutes, Connolly said. The civil violation carries a fine of $500 to $1,000.

Those who are interested in making  a financial a donation or volunteering their time should contact Resource Hub Coordinator Mesha Quinn at 459-2933 or by email: [email protected]

Financial contribution may be made by check to: Sanford Coordinated Community Response, c/o United Way of York County, P.O. Box 727, Kennebunk, ME 04043, earmarked for the Sanford effort. The United Way will accept credit card donations at: https://www.buildcommunity.org/donate. The donor can enter “Sanford Coordinated Community Response” in the comment section.

Buck told the City Council progress has been made at the encampment. For instance, a family who had been living in one of the camps was placed in housing last week, he  said.

The Resource Hub is to be  located in tents on the YCCAC grounds, at the High Street entrance.

A coordinator will screen visitors as to whether they have current access to health care, Buck said. Those with access to care, and who have no existing untreated health issues, will be directed to meet with an outreach worker who can determine their eligibility and interest in available housing options, including emergency shelter, and other essential resources.

Those with no connection to a health care provider, or who have immediate health care needs, will be screened by the staff from Nasson Health Care and, if interested, can be offered an immediate appointment to see a medical or dental provider.

Information on substance use disorder treatment options and resources will be available to all visitors.

Health and social service organizations are expected to provide information about their resources, eligibility guidelines, and more, Buck said.

Sanford established a Homeless Task Force a month ago that includes city staff and area service providers as well as a team from Sanford Police Department. Headed by Det. Eric Small, a certified recovery coach who is who is assigned full-time, the police team also includes four other officers who are working part-time with the homeless through Oct. 1.

The police department team has been visiting the camps, checking on those who live there and doing what they can to encourage change. The team  has assisted homeless people with securing and getting to medical appointments, following up, securing shelter, and more, such as finding footwear and helping people get identification cards. There have also been conversations about next steps.

While the Heritage Crossing encampment site is the most visible, there are others in the city as well, including at least one location in Springvale.

Sanford’s camping homeless population has been pegged at about 40, though that figure does not include “couch surfers” who stay with various family and friends, or those who may be living in their vehicle.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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