PORTLAND, Maine — Protesters have been camped out in front of Portland City Hall for five nights to demand immediate and long-term solutions for people impacted by the housing crisis.
Protesters released their set of demands on Friday, and have committed to maintaining the tent-out until the demands are met. Protesters and community members will be giving public comment at Monday’s City Council meeting.
The group says it is calling for the following from the city:
- Decriminalization of camping out in the city
- Immediate decriminalization of sleeping outside in the city of Portland
- Real structural changes and reallocated money for essential services (health services, mental health, critical infrastructure, COVID programs.)
- Establish, build, and license overdose prevention sites
- Plans for permanent affordable housing led by impacted people.
- Create housing that is permanently off the private, for-profit market, where rents are based on real cost.
- Extend eviction freeze, which ends August 3
NEWS CENTER Maine reached out to Jessica Grondin, communications director for the City of Portland, but have not heard back.
On Saturday morning, police say a man who was part of the protest assaulted assaulted a woman who was also taking part in the protest.
Unhoused organizer Jess Falero said, “we are not looking for time on a council agenda. We are looking for immediate policy proposals from the City Council at Monday’s meeting. We won’t even have an opportunity to speak at their workshop. Since our action started, only one City Councilor has been down to talk with us. This is unacceptable. People’s lives are on the line. Our voice and leadership are critical to moving forward solutions that truly address this crisis. We know what we need, and we no longer accept others speaking on our behalf.”
The tent-out action is not associated with any particular group or organization, and is led primarily by young people who have experienced living without a house, and other community members in solidarity.
In five days, organizers of the tent-out say an all-volunteer grassroots network has set up systems to feed 150 community members daily, provided 24/7 medical assistance, distribute clothing and other supplies, and connected people to laundry facilities and showers.
Houseless organizers have shared that they feel safe sleeping on the street for the first time.
Adam Rice is a member of People’s Housing Coalition, and is a housed ally who previously worked in property management.
“It has been beautiful to see how much Portland residents care-- it's brought tears to my eyes many times this week,” Rice said. “With the city council I again am disappointed. Having been involved in advocating AGAINST the bed cap, and the Riverside shelter location, I know the city is well aware that many folks are not allowed to sleep at the existing shelters. The City Council stating "there's enough beds for everyone" is deceptive. When children are told they are banned from the shelter for a year, we put children in harm's way. Most people are unaware that there is a large population in this situation year round. Many people are banned from the shelters, and many more don’t feel safe there. ”
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On Friday, The city released a statement outlining the affordable housing units in development this year.
Tent-out organizers feel the statement does not explain that affordable "workforce housing" is based on median income that includes affluent areas-- an income higher than most residents of the city earn.
Protesters feel vouchers that are given to houseless residents are often not enough to pay for an "affordable unit" and there are no shortage of loopholes to deny people in most need.
Protesters added that they refuse to accept further delays in addressing what they call a human rights crisis, made even more deadly and dangerous by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tent-Out Portland organizers say they demand action now.
'If we work together there is no end to what we can accomplish in making Portland more fair and equitable for ALL its residents,' protesters wrote in a press release Monday.