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Portland postpones homeless shelter location vote for two weeks

The Portland Press Herald reports that the vote, following a nearly three-hour public hearing on Monday, has been postponed until June 17.

PORTLAND, Maine — There has been a lot of controversy regarding where the city of Portland should build a new homeless shelter. 

Dozens of residents came out the evening of Monday, June 3 to Portland City Hall to voice their opinions and concerns about the two options left for potential locations. 

One choice is a city-owned parking lot near the Casco Bay Bridge, known as Angelo's Acre.

The other is city-owned, undeveloped land on Riverside Street, which is near the Westbrook line and is the only site off the peninsula.

City officials started looking for a new shelter location last year. Ever since, there has been a lot of controversy regarding the best place to build the shelter.

The Oxford Street Shelter in Portland holds 154 homeless people at a time, with many more forced to go to overflow shelters. The building is inadequate, and in recent years, the area surrounding the shelter has seen an increase in violence and drug activity. 

City officials are hoping a new 150 bed, state-of-the-art shelter, that includes on-site meals, a health clinic, and counseling, will be the solution.

The problem has been where to put it.

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Stephanie Neuts lives near the Riverside location.

"We feel frustrated that perhaps we haven't been heard."

Neuts says the Riverside site is the wrong choice. There are no sidewalks, there is a lack of emergency services, and it is nowhere near a bus line.

"All of them have a disability of one type or another," said Neuts. "It would be a very remote area for a population that needs a home."

Neuts also says Riverside residents aren't the only ones who feel this site is a bad idea.

"If they care about what is right for the homeless, they'll listen to what the social services people have suggested, and it's not Riverside."

Jane Drew agrees. She's homeless and is also an advocate for Homeless Voices for Justice, a group that provided feedback to the city on the proposed sites.

"I think the city needs to go back to the drawing board."

Drew doesn't like either location being considered. She says the Angelo's Acre is too small, and the traffic and close proximity to the water makes it unsafe. As for Riverside, she says it's too far away. 

Drew wants the city to look at other choices on the peninsula.

"Most of the services that people experiencing homelessness use are on the peninsula -- so this is where we want it to be."

Drew encouraged other homeless people to attend Monday night's public hearing to let their voices be heard.

The Portland Press Herald reports that the vote, following a nearly three-hour public hearing, has been postponed until Monday, June 17.


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