PORTLAND, Maine – A public hearing is underway at City Hall in Portland to discuss plans to cut back shelter services for the homeless. In advance of the hearing, homeless advocates took to the street outside to highlight their opposition to the proposal.
Seventy-five thin foam mats were laid on the ground outside city hall late Tuesday afternoon. Homeless advocates say they represent the 75 people likely to find themselves without a bed for the night, under new city plans to close overflow shelter space at the Preble Street Resource Center.
Bruce Merson is with the group Homeless Voices for Justice. "Everybody’s vulnerable to be homeless again," he says. "It could happen anytime to somebody and the harsh brutal winters, you need a shelter. You need a place to stay."
The city also plans to discontinue the practice of placing homeless families in area motels once the family shelter is full – something which threatens to put another 30 people on the street every night. City spokesperson Jessica Grondin says the city’s action is prompted by a recent decision by the state to stop paying the overall operating costs for its shelters.
"The state changed their reimbursement formula," Grondin says. "It’s forcing us to make tough decisions, which include some cuts, and one of those cuts was to staffing for the overflow shelters."
The state also plans to stop reimbursing the city for shelter residents who are financially eligible.