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Portland's no camping on public property ordinance leads to removal of encampments near the Oxford Street Shelter

Unhoused residents on Oxford Street may no longer camp there, according to a new city ordinance.
Unhoused residents on Oxford Street may not camp there, according to a city ordinance.

The City of Portland is enforcing its "no camping on public property" ordinance, which has led to the removal of encampments near the Oxford Street Shelter. Interim City Manager Danielle West says public areas, streets, sidewalks, and parks cannot be used as campsites. West says a new protocol directs Portland Police and outreach workers to work together to enforce the no camping ordinance, treat unhoused individuals with dignity, and refer them to available services.

36-year-old Jenna Scarpinato is unhoused, and says she's tried to work through the system but not heard back from social service providers. And she says security at the Oxford Street Shelter is lacking.

"I've lost 90 percent of my belongings here, even locked up in the frickin' locker. They don't label it. It gets stolen," Scarpinato said.

Scarpinato says she doesn't trust local police. Interim City Manager West says she understands that trust in the system is hard to gain, but she says the city is trying to give unhoused residents the help they need.

"We are really coming at this from a humane and good place. We're really trying to help and make this consistent and give individuals as much help and services as we can." West said.

The City of Portland's new protocol coordinating how law enforcement and outreach workers address encampments is the result of the work of the statewide homeless council that puts best practices in place. Officials say this type of policy is being implemented across the state of Maine, with variations in place to address each city's differences in social supports.