Portland earns top ranking in list of cities ‘waging war’ against the homeless

For the past decade or so, Portlanders have taken pride in the many “Top Ten” lists that our city makes for things like “places to live,” “foodie scenes,” and “wedding destinations,” but on Monday the website U.S. Uncut put us in the top spot for a list that we should be ashamed of- 15 cities waging war against the homeless.

The list includes cities like Seattle, New Orleans, Washington DC, and New York City, but coming in at the number one spot is tiny, quaint, Portland, Maine.

Citing the city’s recent demolition of homeless camps along Interstate 295, among other moves, they also included this clip from wgme.com:

Although the list includes cities with much larger homeless populations than Portland’s, we made the list due to the exceptionally heartless timing of the encampment demolitions- right in the middle of the December holiday season.

U.S. Uncut explains their criteria for the list:

“Christmas is normally known as the time of year when Americans try to be a little more giving, more compassionate, and more altruistic than during the other 11 1/2 months of the year. But in cities across the US, many are simply fighting for the right to exist in hastily-constructed homeless camps. The National Alliance to End Homelessness reports that on any given night, there are over 578,000 Americans sleeping on the streets. At the same time, there are at least 10 million vacant homes across America that are lying empty.

Here are (15) cities that are going above and beyond to push the most vulnerable Americans out of the public eye during the most compassionate time of the year.”

A homeless man in Portland's  Bayside neighborhood in November, 2014. Photo- Chris Shorr, BDN.

A homeless man in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood in November, 2014. Photo- Chris Shorr, BDN.

Then they explained Portland’s place on the list:

“Earlier this year, Portland cut funding for the city’s homeless shelters after a state audit by Republican governor Paul LePage accused the city of mismanaging funds- a claim city officials deny. After the latest cuts, the city will no longer have the funds to provide overflow space at local motels to homeless citizens who are turned away from overcrowded shelters.

As a result of no shelter space, many of Portland’s homeless, and indeed, homeless people across America, build encampments out of spare supplies to provide some semblance of shelter. But throughout the month of December, Portland city officials have been busy tearing down dozens of homeless encampments, providing those depending on them with little options aside from sleeping on concrete.

The city alleged the homeless camps were cleared out for a brush removal project along I-295, and gave the homeless residents sleeping there 24 hours to vacate the premises.”

A homeless man panhandles in Portland, Maine in August of 2014. Photo- Chris Shorr, BDN.

A homeless man panhandles in Portland, Maine in August of 2014. Photo- Chris Shorr, BDN.

Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.