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September 5, 2018

Portland homeless shelter plan sparks opposition

A proposal by the city of Portland to create a homeless services center on Brighton Avenue continues to garner opposition.

"There is no amount of due diligence they could carry out to substantiate the idea," Steve Sclar told the Forecaster.

Sclar and others have established a website called Portland Shelters that suggests alternative shelter approaches.

According to the website, Portland Shelters is a group of citizens "determined to urge the city of Portland to press pause, reassess, and bring our community together on this issue of vital importance." The city's proposal "is deeply flawed in process and substance through the lenses of public health and urban planning," the group stated.

The group proposes alternatives like a "scattered site" model of smaller shelters to replace the Oxford Street Shelter; alternative non-residential sites, either on a city-owned parcel or a purchased parcel; and permanent housing to end homelessness.

In August, more than a dozen residents of the Portland neighborhood of Nason's Corner told the Portland City Council they opposed the city's proposed 200-bed homeless shelter. At that time, the Bangor Daily News reported that residents asked the council to slow development of the shelter, which is intended to break ground around March 2019. They asked the council instead to consider building several small shelters around the city.

According to a news release posted by the city on its website, a community forum will be held Sept. 8, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., to provide an overview of the new shelter model with an emphasis on topics city staff have identified during their community outreach. It will conclude with breakout sessions on topics that continue to evolve but currently include more in-depth information regarding shelter models, safety/security, planning and zoning, community partners and transportation.

The forum will be held at Hannaford Hall on the University of Southern Maine's Portland campus, 88 Bedford St., Portland.

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