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Another Portland encampment cleared, as displaced residents look for new places to go

Portland city workers cleared an encampment of about 70 tents that had formed along the Fore River Parkway Trail on Sept. 6, 2023.
Nicole Ogrysko
Maine Public
Portland city workers cleared an encampment of about 70 tents that had formed along the Fore River Parkway Trail on Sept. 6, 2023.

It was a familiar scene Wednesday morning, as city workers cleared another encampment in Portland. Wednesday was the deadline that a city-run crisis response team had set to find housing and shelter for those living along the Fore River Parkway Trail, and then close the encampment altogether.

Portland health officials said 170 shelter beds were offered to Fore River residents over the last 10 weeks. About 18 people were placed in shelter or housing, according to an update from Portland health officials to the city council. But advocates have said that a lack of mental health and substance use disorder resources have made those placements more challenging.

In between handing out water and coordinating rides for unhoused residents, advocate Shay Dufour said Wednesday morning that most people don't know where they will go next. She believes the city's response has been inadequate.

"We're stressing to the city that the promises you made have not helped," she said. "You haven't kept up to your word. You haven't kept your promises. Whether there's a team coming down here to help, there's tons of people that we've all talked to that the city has not done anything on."

Social services agencies had asked the city for more time before clearing the Fore River encampment, which as of this week, had about 50 people still living there, including Edwin Umana.

"God knows why he does things at the time he does," he said. "But this is what it is for now. I gotta go. They gave us until 8 o'clock this morning. I mean you see everything's packed, ready to go."

Umana said he hopes to get a spot at a new sober house that may open soon. Between now and then, he's thinking about moving to a park-and-ride lot on Marginal Way, which is already crowded with tents. It's grown in size within the last week alone, when state workers had cleared another encampment on the corner of Deering Oaks Park and an I-295 off-ramp.

And some advocates warned against moving to the park-and-ride lot. Starting Sept. 18, Portland's encampment team is planning to relocate their response efforts to Marginal Way. Though the city has not set a date for clearing that site, social services volunteers said the encampment will eventually be closed.