City’s Task Force on Homelessness Gets Public Input Last Night; Recommendations to City Council in Fall

Committee Leader Dory Waxman Listens as Does Portland Press Herald Reporter, Randy Billings, in Foreground

Meeting Facilitators Tom McLaughlin and Jan Kearce

By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,155)

The City issued the invitation for public input. The public responded when about 50 people showed up at the City’s Task Force open meeting at Rines Auditorium at the Public Library last night. The Task Force, composed of about 20 members, has been meeting almost monthly since January of this year to meet its charge from the City to come up with recommendations on how to combat homelessness in Portland. The Task Force was supposed to have reported its findings to the Council earlier this month, but that report has been delayed until sometime this fall.

According to Doug Gardner, director of the city’s health department, said that this year 350 individuals sought shelter this year; fifty more than last year and that figure is up more than 20% over last year. “The trends have been going in this direction for the last several years,” Gardner said.

Participants had no trouble naming causes of homelessness, but solutions were harder to come up with. Most agreed, however, that Portland is a very welcoming city and tolerant of most people. So, that fact may encourage people in need to come here. One resident of Bayside said it’s very difficult to see all the homeless in the area. Ron Spinella said: “There are great things happening here, but there are still things to be done.”

The 20 member Task Force was formed when former Mayor Nick Mavadones was in office. It’s composed of 20 people coming from the business, housing, law enforcement and veteran communities; however, apparently no one from the homeless population was on the Task Force.