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Portland Committee Moves City Step Closer To One-Shelter Concept For Homeless

Portland is moving one step closer to constructing one new, larger shelter to potentially house the city's homeless population. Portland officials on the Health and Human Services Committee voted Tuesday in favor of the one-shelter option. The committee's vote also supports partnering with Avesta, Opportunity Alliance, and - potentially - Preble Street on models for additional specific-need shelter concepts.

Supporters, such as Cullen Ryan of Community Housing Maine, say the one-shelter comcept is more financially efficient and healthy.

"Most importantly multiple shelters will not help people that are homeless," Ryan said. "So I urge you to design one shelter and do it right - making it bigger than needed because it will serve the community best."

But detractors say the shelter's larger size could exacerbate issues and conflicts with neighbors that might arise.  

Cecilia Smith said she thinks that the city's lack of housing options is the real root of the shelter conflict.

"Basically, we are allowing our affordable housing to be going away in the city," Smith said, "and that's what's creating this homelessness crisis."

There is no timeline set on potential construction of the larger shelter going forward. 

Portland will still have to consider a site for the shelter, and community input, before developing construction plans. The HHS committee plans on picking up the siting issue early in the coming new year.