Portland council again rejects proposal to expand Homeless Services Center
By a narrow margin the Portland City Council on Monday night rejected a proposal to expand capacity at the city's Homeless Services Center.
It was the second time the council has voted on the measure, which would have declared a temporary state of emergency and added 50 more beds to the shelter.
The measure, which was first rejected two weeks ago, lost on a 4-4 tie vote, with one councilor absent.
Councilor Regina Phillips asked that the panel reconsider it Monday, because she said that she believes the situation has evolved.
"There's been a different message. And the number of folks that have gone to the Homeless Services Center has increased. And I'm confident that if we give this another couple of weeks, the number will increase even more," Phillips said.
City officials say that nine people from Portland's largest tent encampment on Marginal Way have accepted shelter beds within the last week, which they saw as a promising sign.
The Maine Department of Transportation also announced that it will clear the Marginal Way encampment on Nov. 1.
"By not adding capacity when we can add it, we are taking away the autonomy and the ability for people who are unsheltered to choose shelter," said Kristen Dow, Portland's health and human services director. "I really would strongly say that 50 beds is not going to solve the problem that we are facing. But it would give 50 people in our city who are sleeping outside the ability to choose to go into shelter if they want to."
City Councilor Anna Trevorrow said the need for more capacity has not gone away.
"I definitely believe that we need to expand capacity, but I feel like we have one large institution. Expanding capacity from here really needs to be done in sort of a smaller shelter model, where we can really address those barriers that we're hearing," Trevorrow said.
The city is now exploring whether privately-run shelters around Portland can expand capacity at their own sites through an incentive program. And the proposal to add 50 more shelter beds will likely come back up for reconsideration once more in the coming weeks.