PORTLAND (WGME) — The Portland City Council has rejected a proposal to allow homeless encampments on public property.
The public comment period lasted until after midnight and the proposal was rejected by a 6-3 vote.
“Please don’t continue to move the camps or close them. It pushes people to do desperate things they wouldn’t normally do,” said William Higgins of Homeless Advocacy for All.
The plan would have effectively suspended encampment sweeps until April and allowed the sites to remain on all public property, except for certain locations like City Hall and those near playgrounds and schools.
The Portland Fire Department said it received more than 1,000 calls for service to encampments this year and estimates that if the ordinance had passed, it would have cost the department $150,000 over the next five months.
Portland Police Chief Mark Dubois said the Casco Bay Bridge camp has received a total of 188 calls for service so far.
Four other departments also estimated increased costs, estimating a total cost of $1.2 million if the ordinance had passed.
City councilors who supported the proposal, like Victoria Pelletier, said camp searches don’t help get people into shelters, but ultimately health and safety issues were too much of a concern for the majority.
A tent outside in the freezing cold is not a resource. Every member of this community who dies this winter from the freezing cold, from an assault or from an overdose, it will be the responsibility of the people who support this measure as a solution. This is not a solution,” said formerly homeless Josh Moss.
About 120 beds are expected to open when the new shelter opens on November 29.
Monday’s meeting drew strong reactions, with protesters on both sides of the debate gathering outside City Hall ahead of the vote.
And after the vote, chaos ensued in the council chambers after a protester climbed on Portland Mayor Kate Snyder’s desk and refused to get up and leave.
She was picked up by officers, handcuffed and taken from the rooms.
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