Maine’s largest city has turned down a proposal that would have allowed homeless encampments through the coming winter.
The Portland City Council rejected the proposal by a vote of 3-6 early Tuesday morning in the wake of hours of testimony. The city has a large homeless population and its practice of clearing homeless encampments has drawn criticism from some advocates in the community.
City leaders have debated the best way to deal with growing homeless encampments around the city. A large camp outside Portland’s downtown was cleared earlier in the fall. The proposal that was shot down on Tuesday would have permitted public camping through April.
The City Council voted this fall to temporarily add 50 beds to a homeless services center on the outskirts of town. The city also opened the new service center in March after years of planning.
The opening of the 218-bed service center shifted some homeless services away from Portland’s downtown. City officials said in June that it was sheltering about 1,200 people per night, and that many more were unsheltered or were receiving help from non-profit organizations. The city also described the number of people seeking shelter as “steadily increasing” at the time.