Where’s the regional response to homelessness during this pandemic?

Last summer Portland took in hundreds of asylum seekers. Many from nearby municipalities volunteered and donated to aid Portland’s front-line response. State departments provided staff, oversight, processes and resources to get people housed.

Every night, Portland has also born the brunt of sheltering a nearly identical number coming from closer quarters. A third of those checking into Portland’s shelter system self-report being from the city. Yet somehow this ongoing shared emergency has never produced a coalition on par with the sudden influx that gained so much notoriety.

The present crisis shows how inappropriate it was to crowd the region’s homeless in one city block, forcing a single municipality to provide the emergency public safety response.

The 50 so-called “wellness” beds from the state are inadequate. Portland’s shelters remain open to the 608 people who’ve used them in the last 90 days.

I’ve personally asked nearby town councils how they can help: “We will take your input into account as we continue to consider this.”

Same as last year’s attempt to form a more appropriate regional approach (“Efforts by Portland, state navigate path out of chronic homelessness,” April 21, 2019):

• Westbrook: Didn’t respond to Press Herald interview requests.

• South Portland: “Will be talking more about these issues.”

• Scarborough: Hasn’t “put any proposal in front of the council.”

• Falmouth: “They too are holding off.”

Collectively we (you) are only as safe as those least able to prevent spreading this virus. What will it take for us to work together to find a long-term solution that protects everyone?

Jim Hall

Portland

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