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Homeless encampment is back at Deering Oaks

After the sleep out protest at Portland City Hall, the homeless encampment has returned to Deering Oaks Park.

PORTLAND, Maine — Members of the homeless community in Portland have been staying in Deering Oaks Park. Many of those people then participated in a protest at Portland City Hall but have returned to the park since the protest ended.

The people who were protesting here at City Hall told NEWS CENTER Maine they want three things: to decriminalize camping in the city, to defund the police, and reallocate that money to essential services for the homeless.

RELATED: Protesters tenting at Portland City Hall prepared to stay until demands are met

Homeless people gathering at Deering Oaks is nothing new, but things came to a head about a month ago when Preble Street Resource Center, which couldn't allow people inside, started bringing meals to them in the park.

The City told it to stop, which it did. That led to a protest camped out on the steps of City Hall for weeks. That protest ended over the weekend, and now many of those same protesters are back at Deering Oaks.

NEWS CENTER Maine has reached out to city leaders to ask about possible solutions to the issue several times over the last month, and the only time one of them agreed to be on camera was when Mayor Kate Snyder met with some of the homeless a couple of weeks ago. She heard their stories and spoke briefly to reporters afterward.

RELATED: Advocates and Portland's homeless get sit down meeting with Mayor

Tuesday, NEWS CENTER Maine reached out to Mayor Snyder, City Manager Jon Jennings and city councilors. We did not receive a response from any of them, but we did hear from Communications Director Jessica Grondin who released a statement saying in part:

"...we continue to work with our community partners to provide outreach to encourage folks to seek shelter. As I think you know, our shelters are only half full right now, even with our capacity restrictions due to COVID. We continue to operate Oxford St Shelter and the temporary shelter at the Expo. Each is only half full. We're also continuing to let those experiencing homelessness know that there are other resources available to them..."

We also tried to talk with some of the people in Deering Oaks about their situation, and they made it very clear that they didn't want to talk with us. Many of them are feeling frustrated and angry about the seeming lack of movement on the part of the City.

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