Portland's Oxford Street Shelter.

Portland has hired a longtime city employee as the new head of its Oxford Street Shelter, saying Sara Fleurant will play a key role in the city’s ongoing efforts to establish a new and more modern shelter in the future.

Portland’s Oxford Street Shelter is the state’s largest, with a capacity for more than 150 people, but it has regularly overflowed in recent years, forcing city officials to consider its replacement.

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The issue has been divisive, as an initial proposal to build a 200-bed shelter and service center near the Westbrook city line was decried by residents in that neighborhood. A City Council committee balked at the plan and endorsed the construction of a new 150-bed shelter, along with possible partnerships with area nonprofits for additional smaller shelter spaces.

As the new director of the aging Oxford Street Shelter, Fleurant will now play a bigger role in the ongoing discussion.

Fleurant has already worked for the shelter in multiple roles, most recently coordinating housing and support services for shelter clients. She also spent four years as a community policing coordinator for the Portland Police Department.

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“We are extremely excited to have Sara in this new role,” said Kristen Dow, Portland’s acting director of health and human services. “She has been a valued staff member of the Oxford Street Shelter for several years and will bring a unique and expanded perspective to the role of shelter director. I look forward to working with her in this new capacity as we provide emergency shelter services while working to help end homelessness for our clients.”

Fleurant replaces Rob Parritt, who stepped down from the position in the fall and moved to a part-time role as a consultant for the city. Meaghan Void, the assistant director of operations for the shelter, was tapped to serve as the facility’s acting director after Parritt resigned.

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Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.