A man shelters in Deering Oaks Park in Portland, across from the Federal Building on Monday, July 27, 2020. (Portland Phoenix/Jim Neuger)
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Portland officials will aim to clear out an encampment of several dozen tents set up by people experiencing homelessness along the Fore River Parkway by early September. Officials have set a deadline for September 6.

According to the city’s Health and Human Services Director Kristen Dow, many of those camping at the site have chosen not to seek shelter, including at the new Homeless Services Center in the Riverton neighborhood. The shelter was at full capacity almost immediately after it opened last spring, though Dow said Monday that roughly 30 beds have been open since June. 

The city’s new emergency shelter on Riverside Street “might not be for everyone” who is in need of shelter, Dow said, adding that many of those in the roughly 45-tent encampment preferred to be outside.

“That is why we are in a housing-focused approach,” Dow told the Council on Monday night.

The city had previously swept an encampment from the Bayside Trail, a less outskirts location, in April. Many people who were sleeping there moved their belongings to locations on the other side of Marginal Way, like near the park-and-ride lot.

Snyder was concerned that those on the Fore River parkway would do similar and move somewhere else in the city to camp.

Dow said that while the city aims to find housing options for unsheltered people, they can’t force anyone to access shelter if that person doesn’t want to. 

A study from the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council, which receives funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that encampment sweeps lead to higher rates of mortality, overdoses and hospitalizations.

Andrew Bove, vice president of social work at Preble Street, a nonprofit organization that helps vulnerable people in Portland, said in April that the Bayside Trail encampment “is a visual representation of the fact that we are in the midst of a homelessness crisis all across Maine.” 

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