Bangor officials deal with homeless encampments across city

BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Bangor officials say issues with homeless encampments are indicative of a nationwide problem.

However, it's a problem that needs to be dealt with locally for a number of reasons.

Wednesday, we went through one of these "tent cities" located between Bass Park and the city golf course as its occupants were told it's time to go.

"No one likes to see them out here in these camps, so we try as best we can here at the city level to identify the assistance for them and get them moved on in a different sheltering option," said Bangor Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Willette.

Officials tell TV5 there are currently up to a dozen of these encampments scattered throughout the city.

"As you see, we are walking through here today, this is a little bit of what we are talking about as far as the trash and the equipment and the gear that's been left behind," said Sgt. Wade Betters of the Bangor Police Department. "So, most of the time with these campsites, people will just leave the stuff behind. They will literally abandon it. And it is up to the property owner or in most cases the city of Bangor to come in here and clean up that mess."

He continued, "As these campsites continue to grow, they do turn violent. Substance abuse issues, mental health disorders, and there are some people down here with criminal intent. They prey on each other down here."

Authorities say Bangor's homeless population swells as the weather warms and people hear about places to stay and what the city offers as a service community.

"That includes having both major hospitals, the medical care, mental health counseling agencies," said Betters. "We have some homeless liaison groups. All of that stuff is good."

Betters calls the situation frustrating as he has been dealing with some of the same people for years now.

"People do take advantage of the help sometimes, the barriers that they are dealing with whether it's substance abuse, mental health issues, or in general health problems are so strong, such a huge thing to overcome that they will take advantage of those services and continue to live in this lifestyle," he said. "It may seem a little bit like tough love, but in the end, we have found that one of the more successful ways we've been able to get people out of this lifestyle is to force them to leave, and that comes after weeks and in this case months and months of trying to convince people to do it on their own."

Crews will return next Wednesday to clear the camp out.