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Augusta considers an option for unhoused residents to camp on private property

A view from a the Memorial Bridge in Augusta, Maine.
Terry Ross
via flickr
A view from a the Memorial Bridge in Augusta, Maine.

As cities across Maine search for solutions to homelessness, the city of Augusta is considering one possible short-term option: for unhoused residents to camp on private property.

The idea was floated at an informational meeting last week of city councilors, after a seasonal overnight warming shelter closed earlier this month.

Officials say city ordinances would allow the camping setup for up to 120 consecutive days. And Matt Nazar, Augusta's director of development services, said the biggest concern around such an option would be managing waste on the property.

"The real concerns, from a code enforcement perspective, it's really a housing situation, is sanitation, is really the biggest one," Nazar told the council last week.

The council appeared largely supportive of the idea, and some city staff suggested they could potentially help connect property owners with residents in need of housing.

But Councilor Courtney Gary-Allen said that finding a space indoors and out of the elements over the next few months would still be preferred.

"How can we, as a community, come up with a space for the next four to five months, so those 15 or 20 people could be back inside, like we had at the overnight emergency warming center?" Gary-Allen said.

A local group, Bread of Life Ministries, is planning to open a new low-barrier shelter, but that's unlikely to open until late summer, at the earliest.