Portland touts efforts to help homelessAP , Associated Press
Aug. 15, 2013 10:51 AM ET
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Officials in Maine's largest city on Thursday touted ongoing efforts aimed at giving homeless people a hand on the same day an ordinance went into effect banning panhandlers from median strips.
Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, community advocates and others said the city's Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness is reaping benefits with its focus on affordable housing and outreach efforts to the city's homeless population. City officials said there's been a 30 percent increase in housing placements for homeless adults this year, and a 6 percent increase in placements for homeless families.
Portland's homeless population also fell in July, the first monthly decline since 2009.
Brennan said a diverse group of agencies, advocates and others have been working in tandem in search of ways to address and prevent homelessness.
"The collaboration has become the catalyst to success best demonstrated by the hundreds of men, women and families who now have a home to call their own," he said.
The new ordinance bans loitering on median strips on city streets. It was passed in response to safety concerns about panhandlers.
Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said he's seen a decline in the number of people on median strips since the City Council passed the ordinance last month.
Sauschuck said he's told officers to issue warnings at first and to use discretion if issuing a citation to somebody who ignores warnings.
"The intent from the very beginning has been based on public safety," he said. "It's not based on us throwing a bunch of citations out there."