In May, in response to public feedback and significant public safety concerns, the city decided to remove the Bayside Trail encampment, establish the new Encampment Crisis Response Team and Mobile Engagement Center and focus on a new coordinated process to address the Fore River Parkway Trail encampment and other emerging encampments.

Homeless people camp on a spur of the Fore River Parkway Trail in Portland. By agreement with abutting property owners, the encampment must be taken down by Sept. 6 and the land cleared. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Over the past seven weeks, there has been an expansion of the Fore River Parkway Trail encampment, and more tents have emerged at the edge of Deering Oaks, in Harbor View Memorial Park, along the Park & Ride lot on Marginal Way, on the Western Prom and near other residential areas.

Focusing first on the Fore River Parkway Trail encampment, the city and its community partners have done outreach, established a by-name list of all campers, evaluated their needs and offered services. The city has also provided a dumpster, porta-potties and a large syringe collection box. By agreement with abutting property owners, the Fore River Parkway Trail encampment must close by Sept. 6, a little over a month from now, and the land cleared. The city will then move on to address the Marginal Way encampment and then, finally, others, which could well have grown in number by that time.

At a special council meeting on July 17, it was reported that 30 of the Fore River Parkway Trail campers were offered beds in the new Homeless Services Center and only two accepted. This raises legitimate concerns about how the city, on Sept. 6, will deal with individuals who refuse services and housing.

Neighborhood leaders and residents in areas most affected by the existing homeless encampments (West End, Bayside, Parkside, Munjoy Hill, St. John/Valley and Libbytown) want and deserve answers to several basic questions, answers to which the general public is also entitled:

• Does the city have a detailed list of all encampments and how many tents there are in each, updated at least weekly? Is it tracking, on a weekly basis, the increase or decrease in the number of campers?


• What will be the order of focus on other encampments, and when is it planned that each encampment will be cleared?

• When does the city expect all encampments to be cleared?

• If a camper refuses available services, what action does the city take or plan to take?

• What proactive steps does the city plan to take to reduce the inflow of campers from out of state and from other parts of Maine? Will sweltering weather conditions in other parts of the country draw even more campers to Portland?

At this point, while some progress has been made, it appears that the so-called plan is aspirational rather than concrete. (“We are building the plane as it flies,” a city official said.) There need to be specific benchmarks and measurable outcomes, reported weekly. The goal must be that all encampments will have been removed from public land before the late fall.

Portland is at a tipping point, and many residents and businesses are concerned that it is following the path of other cities that are totally overwhelmed by their open-door policies (Seattle; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; Los Angeles, etc.). Portland simply cannot absorb, cover the cost of or provide services to the numbers of homeless people who are coming here from other areas. Enough is enough. The city must take responsible municipal action that prioritizes the interests of all Portland residents.

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