PORTLAND, Maine — Around 75 people marched through Portland’s streets Monday afternoon in a youth-led rally against homelessness.
The group shouted slogans through bullhorns and made their way from Monument Square to a homeless encampment in Deering Oaks Park. Along the way, they stopped at City Hall, the Cumberland County Courthouse, the Portland Police Station and the Preble Street Resource Center.
Event organizers from the Maine People’s Housing Coalition called for Portland’s largest homeless care provider, Preble Street, to reopen its day-services resource center and soup kitchen. They also called for the city-run Oxford Street Shelter to resume admitting new clients. Until late last week, the Maine People’s Housing Coalition was helping organize a protest encampment on the steps of Portland City Hal l.
“Shelters need to keep their doors open,” said event organizer Sarah Nouhan, 19. “We’re protesting how they’ve reduced their services.”
The Oxford Street Shelter stopped admitting new clients in April after two residents tested positive for the coronavirus. However, Portland is also operating a quarantine homeless shelter at the Expo.
Also citing coronavirus concerns, Preble Street closed its soup kitchen in July and began delivering food to several outside locations across the city. Earlier, it closed its resource center and put up a fence up around its courtyard with no trespassing signs.
On Monday, marchers threw their signs over the fence in protest.
“We did that so they know they’re the ones who messed up,” said Nouhan, who indicated she is currently unhoused and sleeping at Preble Street’s teen shelter.
Before the march got underway, several young people told personal stories of homelessness while standing at the foot of the statue in Monument Square.
Cody Taylor, 19, said he lost his home when he — along with his mother and sister — were evicted from a Sanford apartment when he was 17. Then Taylor added he just found a place to live, four days ago. This elicited cheers and applause from the crowd.
“I want the same for everyone out here,” he said through a bullhorn, “and I will march till my legs don’t work anymore to get it.”
Then, Taylor led the crowd to City Hall. On the steps, he spoke again.
“We’re going to march over to the courthouse where evictions are happening and families are becoming homeless,” Taylor said.
Another woman marching, who said she was 18 years old, gave her name only as Temper.
“I just found housing,” she said, “But until recently, the streets were my home. That’s why I’m here.”