Portland is removing homeless camps as it enforces a new policy prohibiting the practice in public spaces.
People are seen in an encampment near Portland's Deering Oaks Park on Thursday. Credit: CBS 13

Portland is enforcing its new “no camping on public property” ordinance, which has led to the removal of camps near the Oxford Street Shelter.

Interim City Manager Danielle West said public areas — streets, sidewalks and parks — cannot be used as camps. West said the new policy directs police to enforce the no camping ordinance and treat unhoused individuals with dignity and refer them to available services.

Jenna Scarpinato, 36, is unhoused, and said she’s tried to work through the system but has not heard back from social service providers. And she said security at the Oxford Street Shelter is lacking.

“I’ve lost 90 percent of my belongings here, even locked up in the frickin’ locker. They don’t label it. It gets stolen,” Scarpinato said.

Scarpinato said she doesn’t trust the police. West said she understands that trust in the system is hard to gain, but the city is trying to give unhoused residents the help they need.

“We are really coming at this from a humane and good place. We’re really trying to help and make this consistent and give individuals as much help and services as we can.” West said.

The Portland policy is the result of the work of the statewide homeless council that puts best practices in place to coordinate law enforcement and outreach workers to address camps. Officials said this type of policy is being implemented across the state, with variations in place to address each city’s differences in social support.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.