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Ahead of storm, Portland officials urge those in encampment to utilize shelter options

Organizers say though the camp infrastructure isn't set up to withstand this type of storm, "folks at camp are still resolved to stay firmly where they are."
Credit: AP
Tents crowd the plaza in front of City Hall, Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, in Portland, Maine. City officials are trying to devise a strategy on how to handle the encampment of protesters demanding better services for the homeless. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

PORTLAND, Maine — It’s been more than two weeks since demonstrators and Portlanders experiencing homelessness have been camped out in front of City Hall to raise awareness of the housing crisis. Organizers and those participating have remained undeterred from their mission and demands, but with Tropical Storm Isaias knocking on Maine’s door, City officials are urging them to seek shelter.

“Many who are out there do have shelter options already,” City of Portland spokesperson Jessica Grondin said Tuesday in a statement to NEWS CENTER Maine, “so we will be encouraging those folks to go to these options and working with those who need help finding shelter.”

Grondin said outreach workers from 10 assisting agencies and City staff will be out all day Tuesday encouraging individuals to take shelter ahead of the storm.

The Portland City Council met Monday night to discuss the encampment and protests. The City's director of health and human services said out of the 55 people they've talked to at the encampment, 25 have access to shelter, 20 are permanently housed, and 10 are unsheltered.

Councilors said they are concerned about public restrooms, the impending storm, and public health and safety issues.

RELATED: Shots fired at Portland City Hall, police investigating

Credit: AP
Protesters demanding attention to the needs of the homeless continue to camp in front of City Hall, Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, in Portland, Maine. City officials are trying to devise a strategy on how to handle the encampment, which began almost two weeks ago. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

The Maine People's Housing Coalition posted an update Tuesday addressing the storm, saying "folks at camp are still resolved to stay firmly where they are, making this stand until their statement results in change for their whole community."

The group, which is a "broad coalition of residents working to end homelessness," says they've made adjustments ahead of the storm to maintain services such as moving medical services to be mobile and reducing the number of pop-up tents in the event of extreme winds. 

NEWS CENTER Maine meteorologist Ryan Breton says Maine will mostly see some strong wind gusts but will miss the heaviest rain. Tropical Storm Watches and Warnings are in effect, and Ryan says the worst will come overnight on Tuesday into Wednesday morning. The bulk of the rain and strong winds will be between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m.

Ryan also says there's also a tornado risk from the storm tonight.

For more information about the storm, read Ryan’s weather blog here.

NEWS CENTER Maine will also be live on all of our platforms when updates are needed. Follow us on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. We'll also be live on our website and mobile app.