The Portland City Council rejected a proposal to add bunk beds to one of the city’s homeless shelters in an effort to make more space available to those who need it.
If passed, the proposal would have instituted a limited state of emergency at the Riverside Street shelter and required the addition of 50 beds through November 20.
Although there was a sense of urgency surrounding the proposal on account of the fast-approaching winter months, some argued that the addition would have worsened the quality of life for the 208 people who were already living at the shelter.
The Council voted 5-4 against the measure, with opponents expressing a desire for the city to address the underlying problems associated with the homelessness crisis as opposed to putting a patch on the issue by expanding the available shelter space.
Supporters stated a belief that there is not enough time before winter to find a solution to fully mitigate the root causes of the crisis and getting people off the streets before the winter is critical.
Information recently released by city officials in Portland reveals that despite appearances, the homelessness crisis may not entirely be a function of necessity.
Portland’s $65,000 taxpayer-funded initiative to place roughly 100 homeless individuals into shelters only succeeded in convincing 18 to accept the offer.
Based on the definition provided by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, those who refused the city’s offer of housing cannot be considered to be involuntarily homeless.
Portland’s homelessness crisis has been at the forefront of the public’s attention for several months now, especially since the large encampment on Marginal Way began to form back in May following the city’s closure of the encampment between Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
The open sale and use of drugs, increased health hazards, and the ever-present threat of crime and violence that has accompanied the development and expansion of the encampment has been a cause for concern for many residents and business owners in the area.
Some businesses in the area have teamed up with an organization called “Enough Is Enough” — which formed in 2022 in opposition to several citizen initiatives led by the Maine Democratic Socialists of America (MDSA) — to advocate for themselves.
“Untold stories of assaults, harassment, hard drug use, human waste, and discarded needles plague the area while the city council ignores pleas for assistance,” Enough is Enough wrote in a Thursday press release.
Just over a month ago, the owner of Fogg Lighting — a store located across the street from the encampment — emailed city officials to inform them that he had found a machete on his store’s premises.
Jason Biggs — Vice President of Business Development at VIP Tour & Charter Bus Co., which is also located near the encampment — responded in the email chain claiming to have found a loaded shotgun on the property in July.
Fogg also emailed the city to inform them that someone from the encampment, who appeared to be under the influence of drugs, had a needle “which he waved in a threatening manner for all to witness.”
In August, Fogg reached out to the city requesting assistance to clean human excrement out of his parking lot — a request that city officials ultimately denied.
Given that the city has already failed to encourage members of the city’s homeless population to accept offers of housing, it is unclear how increasing shelter space would have been an effective means of alleviating the homelessness crisis plaguing the city.
City officials have not yet announced any potential alternative solutions to the crisis since their rejection of the proposal to temporarily add additional beds to the Riverside Street shelter.