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Portland Planning Board Approves Plan For New Homeless Shelter

portland homeless shelter.PNG
City of Portland
A graphic showing the site of a proposed homeless shelter that has received approval from Portland's planning board.

The city of Portland's planning board has approved the construction of a new 208-bed homeless shelter.

The new shelter would offer a bike pavilion, housing and job assistance, and an on-site health clinic, among other services. Supporters say the building is desperately needed and point to the inadequate condition of the city's current Oxford Street Shelter.

But the project on Riverside Street has faced pushback, with critics saying it's too far from other city services. And a local referendum effort seeks to restrict the size of certain new shelters to 50 beds. Portland Democratic Rep. Grayson Lookner spoke on behalf of several state representatives against the proposal at Tuesday's planning board meeting.

"This location presents significant barriers, given its remote, industrial location and distance to core public health services located on the peninsula," Lookner said.

But Cullen Ryan, the executive director of Community Housing of Maine, told the city's planning board on Tuesday that the new shelter would offer a central service center for people experiencing homelessness that would be able to quickly get them what they need.

"It's not important where someone spends a day or two," Ryan said. "It's most important they have immediate, comprehensive access to need to everything they need to most effectively and efficiently end their homelessness. Something that won't happen if we spread things out into five separate shelters."