Maine City Cracking Down on Homeless Camps

Portland city officials have given people a September 1 deadline to move out or face criminal trespassing charges

The City of Portland, Maine, is serving an eviction notice to a group of people without homes.

For years, they’ve been living in a homeless camp in the woods, nicknamed “Tent City.” It’s in a wooded area behind the Pine Tree Shopping Center, which is private property.

“The conditions are deplorable,” said Portland Police Assistant Chief, Vernon Malloch. Police put tenants of Tent City on notice: move out by September 1, or face arrest for criminal trespassing.

“We don’t want to make their lives harder,” said Malloch. Police will be working with outreach case workers from Preble Street Resource Center to connect them with social services.

He said living in this kind of camp creates fire dangers and unsanitary conditions.

“We didn’t want to come here, but people in town were telling us this was a safe place,” said Troy Jethro, who has been living in the camp for a few weeks with his wife and five-year-old daughter.

“It’s a lot better than being at the shelter,” he said.

Others have been living in the camp for years — even constructing a cabin, a chicken coop, and growing food in a garden.

“We got everything we need, right here,” said Louis Paradis, who lives in a tent with his girlfriend.

They worry that the city isn’t solving the homeless crisis, it’s only spreading the problem elsewhere.

“I’ll just move my tent to a different spot,” said Paradis.

The Preble Street Resource Center reports at least 100 homeless living outside, a figure that has tripled since this time last year.

“There is a crisis in this city — lack of affordable housing, untreated mental illness, lack of substance abuse services, and an overtaxed emergency shelter network — and the people sleeping outside are a symptom of that crisis,” said Preble Street Communications Manager, Jaime McLeod.

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