Like many, I was appalled at the sudden appearance of a tent city on Commercial Street in Portland. I can only imagine the shock to abutters and nearby businesses.

Your coverage included a somewhat amusing, but informative, interview (Portland won’t pause homeless sweeps this winter. Now what? Nov. 21) with a gentleman who preferred tent living to a shelter because “he likes to drink beer at night” and feels like an “inmate” in a shelter. Riiight!

I’m not sure, but I imagine the population consists of about 40% of people suffering from addiction, 40% with a serious mental condition, and the balance with no other place to go – either running from an abusive family situation or just plain bad luck and no safety net.

A cottage industry has sprung up around these folks, in good faith and with best intentions, to provide for their needs and keep them as safe as they are willing to accept. The unfortunate byproduct is that it doesn’t address the root causes and only encourages more tent dwellers to join in.

Allowing the gentleman interviewed to remain in a tent so he can enjoy his nightly beer isn’t productive. Sometimes short-term pain, in the form of requiring participation in one’s own recovery, will result in long-term gain.

Ken MacLean

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