To those of you who have never been homeless, you should be very grateful. It is a horrible thing each hour of the day. Not having a place to clean yourself, cook food or even go to the bathroom.

In my experience, you become a time bomb to yourself. What will you do to feel better in the worst time of your life? You may become addicted, commit a crime, be the victim of crime, forget any sense of what life could be like if you got a helping hand. I know.

News reports state this population is “drug addicted, mentally ill or they cannot afford the rent.” These words make it easy to move on to the next news story. You have to; trust me, you do not want to be homeless.

It seems each year Portland becomes a little more affluent. Larger yachts visit, fancier condos are being built, colleges are moving in, even an 18-story building. Where does Portland go from here? A more important question is: Where do homeless people go?

The issue is complex and this letter wants to give you a perspective that you many not hear.

A mega 200-person shelter may work as a warehouse. Staying in a shelter that large with each person bringing trauma may develop some unwanted problems. On Riverside Street, people may set up encampments behind the shelter in the woods. When the light in the shelter turns off, what happens? Again, trust me, it is not comfortable. What if more people need public housing assistance – what happens next? Do the elected officials say 300 people can live there?

Maine is a great state and Portland is a great city. We have so much potential helping people at their worst moments in a dignified way. There are so many agencies that can and are ready to assist people once a person can figure out that they actually have a chance to regain or regrow themselves.

A 50-person homeless shelter will enable a person to spread out. Have shorter lines for the showers, cook meals together, discuss things openly and get help and make their way out of a shelter and into a more dignified life and living space. If I were a care worker, case manager, volunteer, therapist, family or teen living living at or visiting a 50-bed shelter, it would make all the difference. Again, trust me, I know.

A mega-shelter is not the answer to regain yourself. In a 50-bed shelter you can become intimate with other humans. It is easier to evolve into someone who has a place to clean themselves up, take a shower, go to the bathroom, cook and much more.

If you are the mayor, town manager, city councilor or a voter who is thinking about voting for the 200-mega-person shelter, I would like you to attempt something to give an idea of what it is like to be homeless. Try going to a mega-shelter in Boston for few days and then at a later date arrive at a small homeless shelter in Vermont. If you are unable to do either, imagine what it would be like to be at each place. My guess is you would prefer the smaller, more comforting environment of a 50-bed option.

In closing, if you have never been homeless, be thankful and be compassionate to those that have been.

Peter Brunette II lives in Westbrook.

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