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Lewiston council bans overnight camping on city property

Councilors in Lewiston have passed an ordinance barring anyone from staying on public property at night.

Chris Bicknell, the executive director of the city's New Beginnings youth shelter, told councilors on Tuesday night that the new rule, which takes effect on April 1, will only further criminalize homelessness within the city, without offering supports or alternative places to stay.

"Dig deep into your souls and hearts and think about what you're doing here. The people of this community deserve better," he says.

Lewiston Police Chief David St. Pierre says that police give unhoused residents a lot of leeway and won't be looking to arrest them. He says the new rule will give officers another tool to get some residents to move out of parks and off the sidewalk, if needed.

"The intent is not to criminalize anything. But it's to give us a little bit more power, so we can move people along. Try to find them a safe place. We do so with compassion," he says.

There is no municipal shelter in either Lewiston or Auburn, and a plan to build a temporary shelter with modular homes in Androscoggin County has stalled.

Councilors approved the new ordinance in Lewiston by a 4-3 vote.