Cody Taylor, 19, was one of the original tenters at the ongoing “sleep-out” at Portland City Hall. He has been homeless on and off since age 17. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Cody Taylor, 19, said he was forced to grow up faster than most kids. His father left his family when he was 6 years old and since then he has been a father figure to his younger sister.

But staying housed has been a challenge.

Originally from Sanford, Taylor said his family’s first bout of homelessness happened when he was 11 – when their apartment building was condemned. He, his mom and sister came to Portland and took shelter wherever possible – hotels, campgrounds, the back of a pickup truck in Portland for six months – before returning and finding housing again in Sanford, he said.

They had their apartment for five years, until a confrontation landed them on the streets again. Taylor said his younger sister, who was 14 at the time and is autistic, was taken advantage of by another teenager.

“I went to confront this kid,” said Taylor, who was 17 at the time. “I was angry – violently angry.”

When he and his mother went to confront the boy and his family, the police were called and someone reported the incident to the state, said his 42-year-old mother, Christine Blair. Blair lost custody of her daughter to the girl’s father, and lost child support payments that paid for their rent.

They returned to Portland.

“I figured we had a little more opportunity here,” Blair said.

Taylor had been camping at various locations in Portland for the last two years before moving into the encampment, where he shares a tent with his girlfriend. He, too, struggles with mental health issues. He said he spent some time in Spring Harbor for suicidal thoughts.

Taylor said he is currently working one day a week at a retail store in Westbrook. Both he and his mother are on the verge of getting housing, he said.

But Taylor plans to continue standing with protesters at the City Hall encampment even after he gets housing. The campers have vowed to stay until some of their demands are met for more low-income housing, a freeze on evictions, legalized camping on public property, overdose prevention sites, defunding the police and increasing investments in social services.

“It’s (expletive) up what’s going on here,” Taylor said. “I will be supporting these people until we get these demands met.”

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