Portland’s Encampment Crisis Response Team (ECRT) has started implementing a plan to move homeless individuals from the Harbor View Park encampment below the Casco Bay Bridge into the Homeless Services Center (HSC).
Last Tuesday the city opened a new $4.6 million emergency shelter exclusively for single asylum-seeking migrants at 166 Riverside Industrial Parkway, which the city says has opened approximately 120 beds at the HSC.
Those openings are in addition to a temporary 50-bed expansion to the HSC as a result of the City Council approving a declaration of a limited state emergency in November.
After the additional beds at the HSC came online, city staff launched a plan to provide “extensive outreach” at the city’s largest homeless encampment at Harbor View Park, which currently contains over 120 tents.
The city says the additional shelter capacity will allow them to resolve the homeless encampments over time, though a specific resolution — or “sweep” — date has not yet been set for the Harbor View encampment.
“I’m so thankful for the quick work staff did with transitioning 120 people from the HSC to the new shelter yesterday, and for the work that has gone into our updated and extensive outreach plan to get people inside into these available shelter beds,” said City Manager Danielle West in a Friday press release.
West said that since the city began their outreach, they have successfully moved 11 individuals from Harbor View Park into the HSC.
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“We are hopeful that this strategy will continue to be successful in the coming days,” West added.
In addition to their outreach at the encampment, the city says they will be collecting data on the reasons homeless individuals refuse shelter beds, and provide transportation and storage options for individuals willing to relocate to the HSC.
Last Friday, Portland Police announced that they are investigating the death of a 52-year-old man who was found unresponsive in a tent in the Harbor View encampment Thursday.
The week prior, a Portland Police officer found a deceased homeless individual inside of a burning tent at an encampment alongside I-295 at the rear of 140 Marginal Way — the same weekend, the Sanford Fire Department located the remains of an adult male inside of a makeshift tent that had been destroyed by fire.
At a Nov. 20 City Council meeting, Portland Fire Chief Keith Gautreau described the increase risks of fires at the encampments as the weather gets colder, as well as highly combustible materials and propane tanks exposed to nearby flames, and possible carbon monoxide poisoning from heaters being used inside poorly ventilated tents.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in outside fire calls, just recently, just with the weather being colder — particularly at Eastern Promenade and Harbor View Park,” Gautreau said.