I am writing this letter in response to “Homelessness in Portland approaching record levels.” The article quotes District 3 Councilor Tae Chong saying with regard to Portland’s homeless issue, “There is no city or town that addresses almost half of the state’s homeless population. You just can’t find it.”
Chong is right. Portland has the largest number of homeless beds per capita of any New England city.
What’s missing from the article however is Chong’s, or the City Council’s, long-term approach to this problem. Yes, the council has approved a 200-bed low-barrier shelter for Riverside Street. Unfortunately, I believe, this will have the effect of drawing more homeless people into Portland. Eventually, even this shelter will become full and then what? Do we start building another one?
Part of the solution requires the city setting a cap on the number of homeless people that it’s budget can reasonably support. Additionally, if Portland is accepting homeless persons from surrounding towns, these communities, and perhaps the state, need to contribute their fair share. To again quote Councilor Chong, “Portland is) surrounded by other towns that are as capable as we are but we’re the only ones that do it.”
The time is now for the city to start work on developing a long-term plan to deal with the homelessness issue and how it will be funded. Otherwise, Portland will be forced to continue subsidizing our neighboring towns’ cost to the solution of the problem.
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