PORTLAND, Maine — Portland city leaders now say they plan to move quickly to remove a homeless encampment that has grown to around 80 tents in the Bayside neighborhood.
The city says the encampment is creating urgent health and safety concerns, with many residents saying enough is enough.
City leaders say while there isn’t an exact date for the tents to come down and cleanup to begin, it could start next week.
That’s not soon enough for some community members.
“This is the area where we have, in the past, done our evacuations for fire drills and now we’ve moved that in order for everyone to be safe,” Baxter Academy Executive Director Anna Klein-Christie said.
Klein-Christie says members of her school are feeling the impact of the scene every day, and some residents are fed up.
“It’s got to go,” Mark Davey, who lives near Bayside Trail, said. “Something has to be done. We’ve reached a tipping point.”
Portland’s Health and Human Services Committee met Tuesday with community partners and staff to hear about the current Bayside encampment situation, ultimately deciding it needs to come down.
Now they’re working on the best path forward in terms of staffing and putting together a task force to help those experiencing homelessness get needed resources.
“At this point it’s gotten too large,” Portland Spokesperson Jessica Grondin said. “There’s too many health and safety issues going on.”
Grondin says it’s in the best interest of all for the city to clean the encampment up.
Now the city is working with community partners to get transitional housing up and running quickly.
Paul Hooper, who is living in a tent on the Bayside Trail, says he doesn’t know where he’ll go next.
“There’s so many other places in the city I can go,” Hooper said. “And then they’re just going to kick me out and give me a trespass warning, and I’ll move to another spot.”
“We are glad that they’re recognizing that they don’t have a space for them to go, and we hope that really pushes the city council to find a space that’s at least safe,” Klein-Christie said.
Grondin says the city is hoping to get people into beds as soon as possible and that Portland needs help.
Now the city is focused on getting the staff together so cleanup can get started.
“It’s not something that’s going to be a one-day cleanup,” Grondin said. “I think given the size, it’s definitely going to take a couple days at least.”
By the end of this week, staff will start telling people at Bayside the cleanup is happening soon.