Cumberland County commissioners have rejected Portland’s request to use the Cross Insurance Arena as a temporary homeless shelter until more-sustainable solutions are realized. While it’s not an ideal building for the purpose, commissioners voted against even hearing more from the city about ideas to make it work, and spoke about this possible solution with remarkably insensitive language, as quoted in a Sept. 15 Portland Press Herald article (“Commission rejects plan to use arena for homeless,” Page B1).

Perhaps this isn’t a surprise. The county and communities surrounding Portland have, for years, failed to act to relieve the pressure that a lack of regional services places on Portland in general, and Bayside in particular. Even requests for small reimbursements have met with pushback and denial of responsibility.

The commissioners’ response to Portland’s request, their refusal to even hear city officials out, highlights the lack of will and absence of creative problem solving or regional accountability that have led to the very situation some commissioners are now using as a reason not to act. This cycle of their sticking heads in the sand regarding homelessness has to end. The deafening silence of the communities surrounding Portland has to end.

If we are ever to improve this situation, everyone – other neighborhoods, the county and the state – needs to commit to their ideals now and do their fair share to prioritize housing, shelter and assist people within their own communities, and stop pushing all the responsibility onto Portland, which usually ends up meaning Bayside, and now includes Parkside. Not tomorrow. Now.

Sarah Michniewicz

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