In this Nov. 24, 2021, file photo, the Bangor Police Department's community relations officer, Elizabeth Ashe, visits the homeless encampment under the Interstate 395 bridge. She was joined by Torelin Jager, the city’s homeless outreach case worker. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

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Recently, a fire ripped through an abandoned building on Union Street, resulting in the deaths of three people. These people were homeless, looking for shelter to take cover from Maine’s brutal winter. Homeless people gather wherever they can find to stay warm, and you can’t blame them.

Every day in Bangor, I see homeless people bundled up in anything they can find to keep themselves warm like gloves and jackets. They also use shopping carts to keep their belongings in. I see a homeless person every time I drive on Stillwater Avenue, standing with barely a jacket suitable for the cold, holding a sign that reads, “In need of anything.”

Bangor has made some progress on this issue by providing more places for them to stay, such as the Ramada Inn, but continues to shut down open-air encampments, such as the Interstate 395 area. The open-air encampments are removed to protect our area. This leads to dangerous situations for the homeless population in Bangor. The cold could result in hypothermia, poor mental health and other dangerous outcomes.

There are about 170 homeless people in Bangor and the numbers keep growing. There needs to be designated areas where the homeless can stay in order to keep them and our community safe. This could mean expanding the homeless shelter or making new space for them, which will ultimately allow them to have a better mental health and a better sense of security.

Madi Hussey