BANGOR, Maine — The city of Bangor is planning to clean up homeless encampments throughout the city and connect those without a home to services.
It's part of a statewide initiative MaineHousing announced in February with Built For Zero to help Maine cities reduce their homeless population. There are roughly 170 to 225 homeless people living in 11 encampments throughout Bangor, according to city officials.
The city's "enhanced debris removal" will clean up trash from encampments across the city, which will give the city an opportunity to connect people without a home to services and get people thinking about their housing plans for the upcoming winter.
In the coming months, the city will try to implement a system with housing providers in the area who are willing to assign housing to help shelter people for the winter, Bangor City Manager Debbie Laurie said during a city council workshop last week.
"I feel confident that there are quite a few people who are going to try to toughen out the winter outside," Jason McAmbley, the Bangor Police Department's public information officer, said. "There were a few people who did it last year. I think there will be more this year."
While Bangor's homeless issues are not new to the city, it is on the minds of many who call Bangor home. At last week's city council meeting, city counselors heard from a handful of residents concerned about the growing issue.
"Never in all the years that I've lived here have I ever seen anything like what's happening," Deborah Johnson, resident and member of the Greater Bangor Democratic Committee, said.
Laurie said part of the city's plan is to take a different approach than in the past.
"Allowing encampments, permanent encampments to continue is not a strategy," Laurie said. "I would say once we get them reduced, we need to keep them reduced."