The clearing of one of Bangor’s largest homeless encampments last month drove dozens of people to form smaller camps around the city — and virtually none of them into shelters and permanent housing, according to police and shelter workers.
On July 24, city crews cut down the thick growth along the bank of the Penobscot River between lower Dutton Street and the Interstate 395 bridge, prompting the 40 or so people who had been living in the sprawling network of campsites to move elsewhere.
The homeless have camped along that portion of the waterfront for decades, but this summer as the camp grew and personalities clashed, a series of violent assaults erupted, police and city officials said. City officials said they finally had enough of the frequent criminal activity and decided to clear the land in an effort to stop the encampment from being rebuilt.
But as most predicted, directors at both city shelters said that few people have showed up to claim beds. Before the area was razed, police and social workers made regular visits to advise residents of the city’s resources for them. Even so, only four people sought general assistance funds from the city to pay for rental housing, said Rindy Folger of Bangor Health and Community Services.
“Some have stayed with friends, others moved to other places to camp, some just moved further down the river and set up camp again,” said James Vaughn of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter. “The situations have changed for a few, but the majority of the campers are in the same situation, just somewhere else in the city.”
The clearing has also given rise to a string of new camps, Bangor Police Sgt. Wade Betters said. Several people moved onto private property or public ways, meaning police have responded to calls from property owners about removing the tents, he said.