Portland’s largest homeless encampment at the Marginal Way Park and Ride is being cleared out Wednesday by city officials and the Maine Department of Transportation, with several of the homeless individuals being moved to another large encampment below the Casco Bay Bridge.
Wednesday’s “sweep” marks the third time the city’s Encampment Crisis Response Team (ECRT) has cleared out an encampment, the first being the Bayside Trail encampment in the spring, and the second being the Fore River Parkway encampment in early September.
An additional sweep of an encampment near Deering Oaks Park was conducted by the Maine DOT in late August.
The ECRT follows a procedure of designating one of the city’s encampments at a time as an “emphasis area,” and attempts to connect the homeless individuals living in the encampment with housing and other services before a set deadline.
Local nonprofits and city workers helped the homeless individuals in the Park and Ride Wednesday morning pack up their tents and belongings to load into U-Haul trucks and moving vans, some of which were seen later in the day being unloaded at the Casco Bay Bridge encampment.
Maine DOT workers picked up trash throughout the Park and Ride, and shortly after 9 a.m. large Maine DOT pickup trucks arrived on the scene with two state hazmat vehicles.
Members of the Maine ACLU, an organization which has called the city’s encampment sweeps unconstitutional and “inherently racist” were seen walking through the encampment Wednesday morning overlooking clean up operation.
So far, Portland’s efforts to curb the city’s homelessness crisis have proved unsuccessful — as of Wednesday, city data reports a total of 282 tents city wide, almost four times as many as the 75 tents reported in February of this year.
The Sept. 6 sweep of the Fore River encampment resulted in the placement of just 18 homeless individuals into housing, and the movement of many more homeless individuals into the Park and Ride — a process which appears to be repeating itself as more begin to settle underneath the Casco Bay Bridge.