BANGOR, Maine — Community service groups and Bangor Police are butting heads over a way people are trying to help the homeless.
At issue-- giving homeless people tents and camping gear.
There's a city ordinance against public camping in Bangor. Police also say the department is forced to use a lot of resources to monitor the homeless encampments, which are often filthy and crime-infested locations. Furthermore, police say the easy availability of camping gear makes it so the homeless aren't pushed to look for long-term housing solutions.
Not everyone agrees.
Ann Sweeney runs the charity organization Hope for the Homeless. She says her organization assists with every aspect of homelessness. In addition to food, water, and toiletries, Ann donates nearly forty tents a month to Bangor-area homeless shelters.
"Humanity tells me I have to do this," says Sweeney.
While Sweeney recognizes the camping gear is a short-term solution to a larger problem, she believes the tents are a necessity.
"There are not enough beds in Bangor. Where are they to go?" Sweeney says.
"I understand where the city is coming from, but how do we find solutions? Right now, the solution is tent encampments; it's tent cities."
Bangor Police would rather see greater efforts made to find long-term housing for the homeless.
Bangor Police Spokesperson Wade Betters says, "We want to exchange what sometimes seems like an endless supply of money that goes into the effort to buy camping gear and refocus that into real housing opportunities."
Bangor Police currently uses a lot of resources to keep a close eye on the homeless encampment sites. Betters says officers visit the sites daily. Moreover, Betters says the city is tasked with cleaning up the mess of the encampments.
"Rotting tents, damaged gear, worn-out clothes, things that are just abandoned. There are piles of human waste, piles of it!" says Betters.
Additionally, there's the issue of enablement.
Betters says, "The camping model is-- just based on what I've seen-- helpful to some degree, but it helps people stay stuck in the same lifestyle."
The Bangor Police Department tells me it takes a fairly relaxed approach to the city ordinance banning public camping.
Officers only break up homeless encampments when there have been multiple public complaints or they've been notified about a violent incident there.