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After 2 Weeks, Encampment Of Homeless People In Front Of Portland City Hall Could Soon Disperse

Willis Ryder Arnold
Maine Public
An encampment of homeless people that in front of Portland's City Hall Plaza for more than two weeks could disperse soon.

An encampment of homeless people that has occupied Portland's City Hall Plaza for more than two weeks could disperse soon.

Leaders say that the protest succeeded in bringing attention to unmet and too often unseen needs of the city's homeless population.

But Jess Falero, who has acted as a go-between for the protesters and city officials, says the community that sprung up there was also starting to suffer from a lack of planning and organization. Worry grew that the welfare of the very people the action aimed to empower was being compromised.

"Even among the people that reacted from trauma and unintentionally caused harm, they want to organize. And in order for us to make sure that everybody who wants to be heard is being heard and has a seat at the table, we need to take a step back and move forward intentionally."

But Falero says it will not be easy for some who have no good alternatives to actually leave and return to Portland's streets and parks. Funds are being raised, Falero says, to help people find hotel rooms, and social workers are helping find other shelter.

Many protestors have already left the plaza, but Falero says there is no particular deadline for completely winding down the project's City Hall presence.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.