Shane Weed was sleeping when Bangor police and city officials came calling at his tent Thursday afternoon. Amid piles of trash, human waste and empty propane tanks in a muddy thicket between Bass Park and the Bangor Municipal Golf Course was Weed’s white tent, with a bright blue tarp concealing one ripped wall.
Weed, 32, followed Sgt. Wade Betters of the Bangor Police Department and Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Willette out of the brambles, surprised to find himself on the golf course.
After six months of living in the woods with propane-fueled heaters, Weed was given six days to find a new place to live, according to the bright green notices Betters and Willette posted near the clusters of tents surrounding the golf course.
“The signs are a final notice, after months of communication and verbal notices,” Betters said.
Police and city officials have been visiting camps in that area since October 2018, checking on the occupants periodically to make sure no violence breaks out. It’s part of a long-running attempt to get people experiencing homelessness to accept city services.
But it’s often ineffective. Some people have been banned from local shelters for violating the rules — or they simply don’t like following them and prefer living outside. Often, their homelessness is a symptom of an underlying issue such as alcoholism, and getting them off the street requires more than just a shelter bed to break the cycle of vagrancy.
Betters and Weed have known each other for a while through Weed’s months of living outside. He knows where Weed was living a few months ago, and last year, and the year before that.
“We give guidance on the services and entities that help people in this situation,” said Betters, who has gotten to know people living outside well through his interactions and check-ins. “Quite honestly, we’ve found that a lot of folks that want to stay here simply do not want to pursue these options.”
But Weed has no plans to go to the homeless shelter or accept any other help that the city is trying to offer him. He says he will leave Bass Park to find a different location in the city to pitch his tent.
“That’s why I lived outside all winter. Because I don’t want to go to the shelters,” he said. “It’s not about if I can comply. It’s about the people inside the shelter.”
Year after year, the Bangor Police Department evicts campers, only to find them pitching their tents elsewhere.
“I’m going to hide,” he said. “And they’re going to catch me again.”
After the occupants leave the woods and the old barn near Bass Park, city staff will start cleaning up the piles of trash and waste left behind.
A few months later, when people who are homeless in Bangor inevitably return their encampments to the waterfront, or Bass Park, or under a bridge, Bangor police will likely follow the same process all over again — conversations, notices, cleanup and another attempt to convince them to accept the help the city is offering.
As for Weed, he seems to have accepted his daily struggle.
“I’ve been homeless since I was 17,” he said. “I came to Bangor because I thought they’d help me. Now look where I am.”