Raymondo Rezendez sits outside his tent at the top of the steps at Portland City Hall. Rezendez, who is homeless, received the tent as a donation. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Raymondo Rezendes, 50, said he had been staying at the Oxford Street Shelter for about two years when he decided to leave in February – only weeks before the pandemic hit.

He has been camping outside for much of the time since, he said.

Rezendes said he’s been homeless since getting evicted from his apartment in early 2018 – a single room managed by a local nonprofit. He said he accidentally pulled a television from a wall mount when he was frustrated and grabbed a television remote that was tethered to the wall.

Rezendes, who acknowledges that he struggles to manage his anger, said the nonprofit called the police and he was arrested for criminal mischief and ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution. While in jail, the landlord moved his belongings into storage and told police he had been evicted.

He described a series of run-ins with authorities stemming from being homeless and not having access to shelters or facilities.

Rezendes said he served 20 days in jail after the television incident before being released to a shelter. “(Police) escorted me out to the Preble Street Resource Center because all I had on was a hoodie and a T-shirt,” he said.

His situation worsened later. On a February night in 2018, he said he left the shelter after getting into a disagreement and fell asleep on the University of Southern Maine campus. When he awoke, he said he could barely feel his feet. He used a call box to dial 911, but he didn’t think he would get any help because he was slurring his words. Rezendes said he broke into the Woodbury Campus Center and pulled an alarm, which led to another arrest.

He said he served four and a half months in jail and two years of probation, which prohibits him from being on the USM campus for two years. That would later mean he couldn’t stay in a shelter set up at USM during the pandemic, he said.

In March this year, Rezendes said, he was sleeping in a tent behind Hadlock Field when police told him to move along. He tried to get a temporary housing voucher for one of the hotel rooms that have been made available during the pandemic, but he said he was sent in circles between various agencies.  He said he got in trouble again refusing to leave the Oxford Street shelter when he wanted to go inside to change clothes that were soaked from rain. The facilities are off-limits to people not staying in the shelter. When he refused to leave, he was issued a criminal trespass order, he said.

He was sleeping in his tent down near the Fore River, by the Veterans Memorial Bridge, until he decided to join the City Hall encampment. When he arrived, he was given a new Ozark Trail tent. A container of cigarettes, bag of granola and Sour Patch Kids candy lay next to him as he spoke.

“I wanted a place where I could secure what little I have without worrying about my camp being ransacked,” said Rezendes, who finds work through a temporary employment agency. “I think this is awesome. I haven’t thought of anything that I wanted that they haven’t had.”

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