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Homeless camp protest outside Portland City Hall begins to wind down

Maine homeless advocates say they will transition to a more sustainable support method.
Maine homeless advocates say they will transition to a more sustainable support method.
Maine homeless advocates say they will transition to a more sustainable support method.(WABI)
Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 11:39 PM EDT
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PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) -After more than two weeks, the large encampment in front of Portland City Hall is starting to break up.

The encampment was a protest in which demonstrators demanded changes for those who are unhoused or homeless.

Volunteers said even though the protest is winding down, the push for advocacy and change for those experiencing homelessness is just beginning.

“There’s a lot of pain today, a lot of sadness, a lot of confusion,” said Adam Rice of the Maine People’s Housing Coalition.

The demands of the group include the decriminalization of camping in Portland, more affordable housing, and overdose prevention sites.

“We want to focus on shelters not being the solution and housing is the solution,” Rice said.

Rice said they were encouraged by the Portland fire chief to start packing up the encampment. Volunteers are working to find safe places for people to stay Friday night.

“A lot of folks here don’t have anywhere to go, and we don’t have the answers for people,” Rice said.

Rice added they plan to clean City Hall Plaza once the encampment is gone.

“We plan to bleach everything, clean the whole plaza. We want to leave it as we found it. We have no intention to leave a mess for other people to clean up,” Rice said.

City Manager Jon Jennings sent a letter to a volunteer Thursday night saying the city wants to help and collaborate to provide access to services and housing.

Services have been hard to come by since Preble Street’s day shelter closed. It was a location that many would go to for a clean bathroom, to shower and connect with counselors.

“A lot of the things we are demanding require policy changes, which isn’t something you can demand and have it done. We are going to have a lot of work,” Rice said.

Rice said the demonstration has been a way to show what a day in the life of someone experiencing homelessness is like.

“We are not letting these people be forgotten about again or fall through the cracks again,” Rice said.

Rice said the Maine People’s Housing Coalition is halfway to its fundraising goal for a mobile hygiene unit that could offer showers and other resources.

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