Portland city workers used picks, shovels and small bulldozers to remove trash, clothing and other belongings that Bayside Trail encampment residents have left behind on the morning of May 16, 2023. Credit: Nicole Ogrysko / Maine Public

The city of Portland said it’s making slow progress in a bid to find shelter for unhoused residents living outside.

A recently formed task force is trying to match 54 unhoused residents living at an encampment near the Fore River Parkway Trail with temporary or permanent shelter.

Portland Health and Human Services Director Kristen Dow said 12 people from the encampment have been placed in permanent housing or at the Homeless Services Center.

“I had known that it was going to take some time to get this up and running, but we had placements out of the Fore River encampment almost every single day last week, including today,” she told the Portland City Council at a meeting Monday evening.

Councilor April Fournier said that’s a promising sign.

“A lot of this work moves at the speed of trust,” Fournier said. “And I know we’ve heard from community providers, there are some myths or ideas about what the HSC is, and the idea of leaving the community that you’ve established to go to this place that you don’t really know.”

Dow said city staff and social services providers held a “housing fair” with residents living near Fore River encampment last week, where they described temporary shelter options and answered questions about them. A similar event is planned for later this week, she said.

The city’s goal is to find housing for every person who wants it, and to close Fore River encampment on Sept. 6 before taking a similar approach at other sites around Portland, including an encampment at the Maine Department of Transportation park-and-ride lot on Marginal Way.

Outreach continues at other sites around the city, and Dow said 33 people from other encampments have been placed in temporary shelter since mid-June.

As of Monday, there are a total of 228 tents around the city, down slightly from a few days ago, but higher than the number of tents that Portland officials counted a month ago.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.