September 23, 2018
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Portland councilors reconsider plan for $10M homeless shelter after public outcry

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Portland City Councilor Brian Batson.
By Jake Bleiberg and Seth Koenig, BDN Staff
Updated:

Portland city councilors will consider other options after facing fierce opposition to a plan to build a new $10-million homeless shelter near the city-owned Barron Center hospital and Westbrook city line.

The three councilors on the Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday asked city staff to look again at alternative locations for the proposed 200-bed facility, as well as the prospect of placing multiple, smaller shelters at different sites around the city instead, according to one of the councilors on the panel.

[Portland residents blast plan for new ‘mega-shelter’]

“This is a major step, and a significant win for this process,” City Councilor and committee member Brian Batson reportedly wrote to residents of the Nason’s Corner neighborhood, where the $10-million shelter had been proposed. The neighborhood falls within his district.

Committee chair Belinda Ray said the outer Brighton Avenue location is still a potential option for a new shelter, and City Manager Jon Jennings said he stands by his recommendation to build the facility there, despite opposition from neighbors, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Nason’s Corner residents hailed that decision as a pleasant surprise, while Mayor Ethan Strimling reportedly said he has believed all along that building multiple, smaller shelters would be a more effective approach.

[Portland may build state’s largest homeless shelter miles from the downtown]

“We feel pretty heartened by what happened last night,” said Steve Sclar, a Nason’s Corner resident who has organized opposition to the plan. “This is a very serious proposal and it deserves a lot more thought and input than it’s received at this point.”

The proposed 200-bed facility — which would offer an array of on-site services including meals, mental health and substance-use counseling, and medical care — was recommended by Jennings in June to replace the aging and overcrowded Oxford Street Shelter that has been the center of rising tension in Portland’s troubled Bayside neighborhood.

Sclar said that he and other Nason’s Corner residents will work to ensure that city staff give other options a serious look and that the process doesn’t “pit neighborhoods against each other.”

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