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Portland council votes to add 50 beds at Homeless Services Center

The new 208-bed Homeless Services Center in Portland which will provide meals, day space, outside space, and wraparound services such as medical, dental, and psychiatric care. It will replace the 154-bed downtown Oxford Street Shelter.
Patty Wight
Maine Public
The Homeless Services Center in Portland in March 2023.

The Portland City Council has approved a measure that will expand capacity at the Homeless Services Center.

It was the third time the council voted on the measure, which will declare a temporary state of emergency and add 50 more beds to the shelter located on the city's outskirts.

Some community advocates argued that expanding beds does not address the barriers that unhoused people have in entering the municipal-run shelter, and that the proposal would only exacerbate their concerns.

But in the end, six city councilors, including Roberto Rodriguez, agreed that temporarily adding more shelter beds could help bring more people inside during the winter.

"I understand that the shelter is not the option that best meets the needs of many of the people who are unhoused, however it does meet the needs of some," Rodriguez said.

Meanwhile, several dozen people gathered outside city hall Monday evening, calling on Portland officials to approve a proposal would temporarily ban the practice of clearing tent encampments.

Randy Beard said he spent several years living outside in Portland. He now has a stable place to live, and believes he wouldn't have gotten housing if he had been moved from place to place, without consistent access to social services.

"If I was swept from where I was I would be dead. Plain and simple. Somebody would have found me dead in a tent somewhere by myself. When we sweep these encampments we scatter the people who are unhoused, and that's a death sentence for us," he said.

The Portland City Council is expected to vote on the proposal next week.