Maine homeless advocates protest emergency shelter closure

PORTLAND (WGME) — A demonstration took place in Portland on Tuesday and the goal was to bring attention to what organizers said is a serious problem for the city’s homeless. Dozens of people gathered in front of city hall. Some laid on blankets on the ground to prove a point.

The city recently cut shelter services and the people want them to know how big of an impact that’s going to have. The city decided to close the overflow shelter at Preble Street. That means 75 people, who normally sleep there at night, will have to go somewhere else. They’ve also cut a program that provides motel rooms for homeless families with children.

The city said the cut was necessary and stems from cuts at the state level but people who are homeless want them to find another way to save money. The city said normally they receive $8.6 million from the state to go towards shelter costs, but in 2016, they’ll only be reimbursed $3 million.

“Because of a drastically reduced reimbursement for those kind of services the City of Portland is forced to make decisions and we have to bring in a balanced budget at the end of the day,” Michael Sauschuck, acting city manager, said.

Jim Lipps, homeless protester, added: “If they shut that down and they don’t give us a place to sleep then we sleep on the city streets or in parks and that’s against the law too. Everyone comes to Portland for support but when they close down the shelter … what are you supposed to do then?”

Demonstrators planned on speaking at Tuesday night’s public safety committee meeting as well.