Growing opposition to proposal to move homeless shelter near Westbrook city line

Oxford Street Shelter (WGME)

PORTLAND (WGME) -- Portland city leaders want to move a homeless shelter out of downtown and relocate it near the Westbrook city line.

However, they face growing criticism from hostile neighbors who don't want the shelter near them.

"I’m worried about everything, everything from the shootings to the stabbings to the drug use, the needles on the ground,” Mike Archer, who opposes the shelter relocation, said.

City leaders have been trying to assure people like Archer that the problems in the Bayside neighborhood won't move with the shelter.

But he and hundreds of families who live off Brighton Avenue, which is near the proposed site of the new shelter, aren't willing to take that chance.

"We have a lot of little children in here. And they don't even know the backgrounds of these people over here. Most of them are single men,” Archer said.

"There's this misconception out there that everybody who stays here is some sort of criminal or addict or bad actor. And that's just not the case,” Oxford Street Shelter Director Rob Parritt said.

Archer's home is a block from where city leaders want to build a new 200 bed, $10-million emergency shelter with separate areas for men and women, a built-in soup kitchen, and security officers.

"Out here they can give them lunches, do their laundry, get them transportation, they can do everything out here. They got $10-million to build a new place, and that ain't (sic) the only thing. They want to get them a security force,” Archer said.

City manager Jon Jennings says the Oxford Street Shelter is “simply no longer sustainable and it's time to move on."

He says a modern facility will better "assist people transition to a better life."

However, all families off Brighton Avenue see is trouble.

"You don't move a mess from one area so you can make it a mess in another area. That's not fair to the people out here,” Archer said.

Last week, a few hundred-people booed and shouted down the proposal. This Tuesday, a city committee will hold a public hearing on the shelter plan and will likely face another hostile crowd.

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