The Portland City Council has chosen a site in Riverton — on the city’s outskirts — for a new homeless shelter. The location will be a 150-bed replacement for Portland’s over-flowing Oxford Street shelter.
The site was approved by a narrow margin, following discussion about whether or not councilors should turn their attention to changing the shelter model before voting on a location.
Councilor Jill Duson urged colleagues to make their decision that evening.
“Not deciding is deciding not to improve what we’re doing,” Duson said. “And we know from all the studies and reports that what we are doing now at Oxford Street is not the best that we can do.”
Several council members expressed frustration at the two available sites, but acknowledged the city needed to move forward.
“There is no perfect answer and there is no perfect site and there is no perfect plan,” said Councilor Justin Costa.
The new site has been a contentious decision for the City Council. Critics say the Riverton site will be too difficult for people to access and is too far from centralized city services needed by people at the shelter.
The City Council’s Health & Human Services and Public Safety Committee will now examine policies for running the shelter.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.