Portland-area people who have no other place to live during the pandemic will not find emergency shelter in the Cross Insurance Arena, the Portland Press Herald reported.
The Cumberland County commissioners voted 5-0 to reject last-minute appeals from Portland Mayor Kate Snyder and five city councilors and side with the arena’s trustees in saying that the 6,200-seat venue is ill suited to house those who might be displaced from the Oxford Street Shelter by social distancing requirements and other pandemic safety protocols, the Press Herald reported.
The action follows Penobscot Community Health Care’s decision on Sept. 9 to continue to use the Ramada Inn on Odlin Road in Bangor to help house homeless people who get displaced by social distancing from Hope House, a Bangor homeless facility that PCHC runs.
Portland’s mayor and councilors said the pandemic has forced the city to drastically reduce its homeless shelter capacity and forced the closure of other such shelters. In response to the overflow, the city runs three emergency shelters and houses more than 240 people in hotel and motel rooms. Commission Chairman Thomas Coward urged the commissioners to consider the city’s appeal, saying that there is a “Hooverville down in Deering Oaks” ― a couple dozen homeless who stay there during the day, the Press Herald reported.
The arena is the city’s last option for housing the homeless, the mayor and councilors said. Commissioners said they feared the arena becoming a point of protest like the encampments in front of Portland’s City Hall this summer, the Press Herald reported.