Portland city councilors on Monday night postponed choosing between two possible sites to build a 150-bed replacement for its overflowing Oxford Street homeless shelter.
Many speakers called on the council to reject both options — one on the city’s busy West Commercial Street, and one in a wooded, residential Riverton neighborhood on the city’s outskirts.
Jane Drew, who is now living at the Oxford Street Shelter, said both are inappropriate. The first is beset by dangerous traffic, she said, and the other too far away from needed social services.
Drew noted that both sites, years ago, had been proposed for a city recycling center. “We’re just like you, except for the fact that we don’t have a consistent, permanent, safe place to lay our head after a long day,” Drew said. “People experiencing homelessness don’t deserve to be looked at as trash.”
But several residents who live near the existing shelter — as well as other shelters concentrated in the city’s peninsula — told the council that neighborhood conditions have steadily deteriorated over the last decade, hand-in-hand with the rise of the opioid epidemic, and that a decision must be made.
Sara Mcnevich, the president of the Bayside Neighborhood Association, said there are about 500 people who seek shelter services in the neighborhood.
“You are not moving a problem, you are moving forward with a solution,” Mcnevich said. “You are simply being asked to replace an inadequate and inhumane piece of infrastructure with a modern, efficient, well-planned, comprehensive update that will produce better outcomes.”
The council postponed a decision until later this month, to allow one absent councilman an opportunity to vote on the issue.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.