Through These Doors, Cumberland County’s domestic-violence resource center, reviewed the city of Portland’s Order Establishing a 180-Day Moratorium for Emergency Shelters in the Bayside Neighborhood with disappointment and indignation. The moratorium states that “the City of Portland’s homeless population has higher rates than the general public of individuals with lower socioeconomic status, individuals who are racial minorities, and individuals who suffer from substance use disorder and other mental health disorders,” leading to disproportionately higher calls for police and EMS service in the Bayside neighborhood.

We are offended by the underlying premise that concentrating people with lower socioeconomic status, racial minorities and others mentioned in the moratorium is a problem. One does not hear that concentrating wealthy people is a problem. That concentrating white people is a problem. In fact, the word “concentrating” is not used when referencing these more privileged groups – only with groups of people who live on the margins.

The moratorium goes on to state that we must “protect the Bayside neighborhood from (a) … concentration of emergency shelters,” that we should avoid “harm” caused by shelters, as if shelters create the problem of homelessness rather than addressing it. Do we imagine that without shelters providing services and supports, people who have nowhere to live would disappear from our streets?

The moratorium highlights the ugly reality of judging and excluding people based on class, color, ability and other characteristics that may be deemed to be unworthy, or at least to be counted and kept to a minimum.

Rebecca Hobbs
executive director, Through These Doors

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