Advocating for trees in Bayside

Did you know – housing development projects in Portland are required to plant one tree for every unit of housing. Sometimes that’s more trees than there’s room for around the development, such as with the recent proposed development of 171 residential units at 52 Hanover Street in Bayside. 

When that happens, the developer pays a fee instead – $400 per unplanted tree – and that money goes into a fund for planting trees all around the City. At 52 Hanover, 29 trees will be planted, and $56,800 will go into the City’s general tree fund. That money won’t necessarily result in any new trees planted in Bayside. 

The BNA is asking the Planning Board to require that all the tree fund money from 52 Hanover Street  be allocated to only plant trees in Bayside. Bayside doesn’t have a lot of green spaces and many streets have few if any trees. We need all the help we can get!

The BNA sent the below letter, to the Planning Board for the March 23, 2021 public hearing on the 52 Hanover Street project. This is in conjunction with a broader effort to protect and enhance Bayside’s green spaces in order to ensure sustainability, equity and livability as the neighborhood changes and develops.

The BNA’s Letter to the Planning Board requesting tree fund allocation to Bayside

To Chair Mazer, Planning Board members, and Planning Department staff,

Regarding the Level III Site Plan, Subdivision and Conditional Use application for 52 Hanover Street, the most recently posted site plan proposes the planting of 21 street trees, and fees in the amount of $60,000 to be paid in lieu of planting the balance of 150 trees.

The Board of Directors of the Bayside Neighborhood Association (BNA) and the undersigned community stakeholders ask that as a condition of any potential approval, the totality of these funds be allocated for use exclusively within the Bayside neighborhood, bounded by Marginal Way, Franklin Street, Congress Street and Forest Ave. The applicant, Tom Watson, has expressed his wholehearted support of this condition.

Such a condition has precedent in a similar Planning Board decision on August 18, 2020 to restrict the street tree funds from Avesta’s 210 Valley Street project for use in the vicinity per staff’s Proposed Motions for the Board to Consider, page 17, XII. C. 2. – “The applicant shall contribute a fee in lieu of approximately $22,000 for the required 55 street trees, to be used for landscape improvements along the lower Western Promenade.”

Without your action the tree funds from 52 Hanover would go into the city-wide tree fund and would not necessarily benefit the neighborhood that would be home to this significant proposed development.

A quick look at the City’s tree map makes it clear that many Bayside streets are severely or completely lacking the greenery that is vital to creating and maintaining a healthy, livable neighborhood and a thriving, sustainable urban ecosystem. Poor and underserved urban neighborhoods with high minority populations, such as Bayside, are particularly likely to have few trees and green spaces, and are especially vulnerable to their absence and loss.

Other prior Bayside development contributions, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, have gone to the general city tree fund, yet Bayside remains tree-poor. The neighborhood recently experienced the dramatic loss of several healthy, mature trees, removed to make way for a different development. Others were removed due to disease. Young replacement trees have died of post-planting neglect.

The BNA is planning a street tree survey and will work with the City arborist to identify opportunities for tree planting. Should project approval be granted for 52 Hanover Street, we ask that you help ensure the future of Bayside’s trees by allocating the required tree fund fees solely for use in Bayside.

Thank you,

Sarah Michniewicz
President, Bayside Neighborhood Association

Bayside Neighborhood Association Board of Directors
Colette Bouchard
Dennis Ferrante
Amy Geren
Jim Hall
Alex Landry
Susan McCloskey
Carolyn Megan
Scott Morrison
Heidi Souerwine
Rob Sylvain
Deborah van Hoewyk

Community Members & Organizations
Chris Aceto
Herb Adams
Ellen Bailey, President, East Bayside Neighborhood Organization
Marylee Bennison
Andrew Bove
Bayside Bowl
Laura Cannon
Cynthia Cochran, VP, East Bayside Neighborhood Organization
Nathalie Davidson
Deborah Fell
Jonathan Fenton
Fork Food Labs
Michael Gelsanliter
John Herrigal
Adam Hill
Ian Jacob
Avery Kamila
Sean Kerwin
Molly Ladd
Peter Leavitt, Leavitt and Sons Deli
Mary Beth Morrison
Jacqueline Newell
Nomadic Goat
Elizabeth Parsons, past president, West End Neighborhood Association
Ned Payne
Anne Pringle
Andrew Rosenstein
Karen Snyder
Nathan Szanton, The Szanton Company
Hilda Taylor
Steve Thomas
Jason Tropp
Laura Underkuffler

Mission Statement

The Bayside Neighborhood Association (BNA) brings members of the Bayside community together. BNA brings conversations about Bayside to Bayside and to the greater community in a way that organizes, informs, and empowers residents; social service and other organizations; local businesses; and city representatives to form meaningful and long-term partnerships. BNA preserves and promotes safety, multi-cultural diversity, housing, and carefully planned social, economic, and physical development in this unique urban community.

Bayside Community Garden General Policies 2023

Updated April 16, 2023 

Welcome to The Bayside Community Garden

The Bayside Community Garden was established at 78 Chestnut Street in 2001 as a project of the Bayside Neighborhood Association. The BCG is unique in being Portland’s only community garden run by a neighborhood association, receiving no material support or funding from the City. For over twenty years the BNA, its gardeners, and its supporters have poured their heart and souls into keeping this rare Bayside green space going despite a challenging urban environment and the mounting pressure of incoming development.

As a true community garden, all Bayside Community Garden plot holders are required to assist in maintenance, operations and/or management of the garden under direction of the garden coordinator and in accordance with garden policies.

The goal of these policies is to ensure the Bayside Community Garden (BCG) enhances the livability and equality of the Bayside neighborhood and provides a well-managed and inviting green space for all who use and visit it for years to come.  

All gardeners and non-plot holding volunteers are required to fill out this form at the beginning of each season attesting they have read and accept these policies before beginning to work in the garden.  Information on the steering committee structure and roles may be found here.

Plot Assignment

The mission of the BCG includes increased food security for lower income Bayside residents, especially new Mainers; and providing community access to green space, which the neighborhood severely lacks. This policy acknowledges and seeks to address those systemic inequities.

Anyone in the community and other neighborhoods may apply to hold a garden plot or to volunteer without holding a plot. 

Bayside residents are given first refusal of available plots and are put at the top of the waitlist. There are generally enough plots available to accommodate gardeners who wish to work a plot. 

Planting Schedule

June 1 – Plots must be cleared and initial planting completed.
June 15 – Planting for first crops must be complete.
July 1 – A plot must show that it has been consistently maintained.
November 1 – All plots must be cleaned out and shut down for winter.

If a plot appears abandoned by July 1, the fee will be forfeited and the plot will be offered to the next person on the waitlist at ⅔ the fee being charged at the time the plot is forfeited. If there are no takers, the plot will be cleared and/or used by the BNA at its discretion.

Plot Maintenance

All plots must be consistently maintained for the entire gardening season and closed down appropriately for the off-season. 

Trash in and around an individual plot must be removed by the plot holder as soon as possible and disposed of appropriately along with the trash collected from common areas.

All plantings, structures and signage must be kept within assigned plots. Plot perimeters outside of the physical box must be consistently trimmed and maintained by the plot holder or designated volunteer. 

The growing of marijuana and invasive plants is prohibited.

Common Area Maintenance

All common areas outside of individual garden plots must be kept neat, trimmed and maintained and invasive plants must be controlled throughout the growing season according to a schedule developed by the operations manager. 

Paths around and between beds must be kept free of plants, structures, overgrowth, etc. for safe and unobstructed passage and be covered with wood chips to control weed growth.

In order to ensure safe and fair use of common areas, intentional plantings outside of garden plots are only allowed with approval by the BNA Board.  Unauthorized plantings outside of approved areas may be removed. 

The berm between the compost bins and the road (Hall Court) and surrounding vegetation must be consistently maintained to prevent growth of weeds, vines, etc. Plants at the side of the road and the fenceline by the sidewalk must be kept trimmed back.

General trash removal should happen on a daily basis as gardeners tend their own plots; a designated volunteer may be appointed to oversee this task.  

Regular trash bags should be used and may be deposited in either the dumpster behind the former shelter at 203 Oxford Street or the one next to the ramp in the parking lot across from Hall Court on Cedar Street. 

Large or bulky trash items left in the garden such as shopping carts should be brought to the attention of the garden coordinator, who will arrange for their removal. 

Trash must also be regularly monitored and removed during the off season between November and May. 

Graffiti, vandalism, or dumping of trash should be reported immediately to the Garden Coordinator. 


Multilingual signs will be posted indicating that touching or picking plants without permission is discouraged.

Respectful signage may be displayed by gardeners within their own plots if they wish to discourage picking of their plants. 

General garden signage and plantings outside of assigned plots must be approved by the garden coordinator.

“Keep Out” signs will be maintained at either end of the raspberry stand as this area has previously attracted tent encampments.

Community Access 

The garden is open to everyone to visit and enjoy between dawn and dusk. 

Touching or picking of gardeners’ plants without permission is discouraged – however, as the garden is a publicly accessible space, gardeners may experience loss of plantings, structures or items left in the garden. If excessive loss or vandalism of plants or garden structures or fixtures is noted, please alert the Garden Coordinator.

Dogs must be kept on leash and waste picked up. Signage to this effect, or restricting dogs from the garden, will be considered if this becomes a problem.

Illegal or disruptive activity and drug or alcohol use is not allowed by gardeners, volunteers or garden visitors. 

No tenting, camping, or related activities are allowed. If a campsite is discovered, please alert the garden coordinator or call the Police non-emergency dispatch at (207) 874-8575 to request their behavior health team make contact with the campers and connect them with appropriate services. 

Please note – the garden is located on private property; not owned by the BNA; and not subject to the City encampment policy. Reasonable attempts will be made to find the people associated with a campsite, but in no case will an encampment or belongings be allowed to remain indefinitely on garden property.

Health and Safety 

Any found hypodermic syringes or other hazardous or questionable materials should be reported to the Garden Coordinator, who will address them appropriately. 

*Gardeners who choose to deposit syringes in the needle box attached to the garden shed do so at their own risk. Using gloves or using a trash grabber is best practice.

Immediate safety or wellbeing concerns on the property should be addressed by calling Police non-emergency dispatch at (207) 874-8575 or 911 as appropriate. The address to reference is 78 Chestnut Street.

Please know that the Portland Police Department has a robust and experienced civilian behavioral health and alternative response unit which is dispatched when indicated for mental health and substance use concerns. They work closely with social service providers to connect people with needed resources.

End of Season

Garden plots must be closed down by November 1.

Plants that remain for the next season must be trimmed back to 2’ or less and the plot raked clear of plant matter and debris. Remove all loose items and anything that may be taken, blown away, or damaged by winter weather. When possible lay fencing and other structures flat within the bed of the plot.

Make a plan for discarding unwanted plants, fencing, stakes, etc. No items may be left outside the plot or abandoned in the common areas of the garden. Remove all trash and debris from common areas.

A volunteer must be assigned to regularly remove trash over the winter until the following planting season.

An Absence of Equity

On January 5, 2021, Portland’s Planning Board fast-tracked approval of a new permanent emergency shelter in Bayside. At first blush a public good, this fourth shelter in a 515 foot radius only worsens long-standing inequity and doubles down on the immoral practice of segregating Maine’s lowest socio-economic sector into a designated 0.2 square mile area. It reinforces the fact that the only option for many people seeking shelter is the highest-crime section of Maine’s largest city. It confirms that Bayside residents and businesses are expected to selflessly shoulder much of Maine’s responsibility for addressing homelessness, no matter the cost.

The mere fact of density isn’t itself the problem. Bayside has suffered from both a perpetual lack of foresight in shelter planning and an unwillingness to learn from the past or even acknowledge the reality of the present. This reactive, piecemeal, rudderless approach to shelters has allowed massive community impacts to go unexamined for decades, un-ironically excused as the unavoidable collateral damage of compassion.

The below charts and graphs demonstrate the lack of equity in distribution of emergency shelters in Maine, Cumberland County, and Portland.

This document visualizes data at three points in time:

  • Baseline“– Capacity up to the prior year
  • Add PS– Includes Preble Street’s new Bayside shelter
  • ”Move OSS” – Shows the situation if Portland succeeds in relocating its Oxford Street Shelter to a more appropriate modern facility that has been sited off peninsula


Accounting for population density does not hide the yeoman’s work that Bayside is doing for the rest of Maine. Adding a new emergency shelter within 1000” of three others made that situation somewhat worse (see blue bar in middle row). But even assuming the OSS move comes together (bottom row) – it’s visibly obvious that Bayside residents will still be the primary good samaritans supporting the state’s homelessness solutions.

Bayside’s Per Capita share of emergency beds is currently:

  • 105 times the City’s number of shelter beds
  • 687 times the County’s number of shelter beds
  • 196 times the State’s number of shelter beds

The middle bullet above particularly demonstrates how the rest of Cumberland County passively relies on Bayside, since roughly a third of Portland shelter guests arrive from other towns in the region. Portland also cares for another third with no direct ties to Maine, such as federal asylum seekers. Many thriving suburban municipalities could clearly afford to do their part, especially since there is a state-level reimbursement program already in place that is supposed to be used to respond to the emergency of homelessness where and when it happens. Instead a “skid row” continues to overwhelm one tiny residential neighborhood, while surrounding communities refuse to pay in, and in some cases actively ban homeless shelters.


Shifting the lens to density of emergency beds per land area, the contrast is so extreme that only a logarithmic scale with units normalized to “emergency beds per 100 square miles” allows all levels to be plotted visibly on the same chart. The rightmost column illustrates that relocating Oxford Street Shelter’s capacity to Riverton would increase the rest of Portland’s share a bit, but barely makes a dent in the super-concentrated quarter mile shelter cluster in Bayside.

Bayside’s per-square-mile share of emergency beds is:

  • 1,575 times the rest of Portland
  • 49,000 times the rest of Cumberland County
  • 83,000 times the rest of Maine


Here is another view that compares % share of Bayside, Portland, Cumberland County, and Maine.

More exhaustive comparison below:

  • Cumberland County provides 39% of Maine’s emergency shelter facilities
  • Portland provides 35% of Maine’s emergency shelter facilities
  • Bayside provides 29% of Maine’s emergency shelter facilities
  • Portland provides 91% of Cumberland County’s emergency shelter facilities
  • Bayside provides 74% of Cumberland County’s emergency shelter facilities
  • Bayside provides 82% of Portland’s emergency shelter facilities
  • All of these are within a 515′ radius, embedded in a poor residential neighborhood
  • Approximately 23% of all Portland police calls for service are in Bayside, and most of those are in the blocks around the shelters

If Portland does move the Oxford Street Shelter off peninsula, Bayside would still continue to provide 16% of all Maine emergency beds, or 210 within less than 0.0006% of Maine’s land mass, inhabited by 0.0002% of Maine’s people, in a neighborhood whose development is vital to Portland’s future.

At the county level, there was at least a recent attempt to help provide some distancing space on county land (still within Portland city limits), but unfortunately the Greater Portland region has not yet succeeded in stepping up to actively participate. The State has contributed to Covid-related safety by funding hotel blocks as shelter during the state of emergency, but pointedly there has been no indication of willingness to materially support Portland’s well researched service center modernization, or provide alternative options.

So, back to equity…

Portland’s Comprehensive Plan embraces the concept of “Equity” – sharing benefits and responsibilities across all the neighborhoods of the city. But despite initiatives like Bayside Boost and expanding emergency shelter zoning almost four years ago, that equity has not been realized. Adding another 40 emergency beds to the current 329 (not including the previous overflow capacity of roughly 200) continues to kick that can down the road. Relocating the Oxford Street Shelter would be a good step, but only a beginning to actual neighborhood balance.

By any measure, at any level, Bayside is propping up the rest of the city, the rest of the county, the rest of the state, and beyond. None of that would matter in the slightest if this model worked to safely, efficiently, and effectively resolve people’s homelessness with minimal impact on the surrounding community. But it doesn’t. It never has. That’s not right, it’s not sustainable, and it’s definitely not equitable.


Data on location & capacity of emergency beds comes from Portland’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Bayside Emergency SheltersCapacity
• Oxford154
• Family146
• Teen24Previous Baseline324
01/05/21 Approval of new Preble shelter+ 40Bayside Total364
… (If city decommissions Oxford)(– 154)(potential)(210)
Other Portland
• Milestone 41
• Florence House25
• Through These Doors16Other Portland Total 82
… (If city opens Riverton)(+ 200)(potential)(282)
Other Cumberland County
• Tedford (Brunswick)45Other C.C. Total45
Other Maine
(See DHHS list)740Other Maine Total740

Data on population & geography are straight up google-able. Numbers below are from Jan 2021.

Land Area (square miles)PopulationDensity / sq. mi.
• Bayside0.202,68013,400
• Portland7066,600951
• Cumberland County1,200295,000246
• Maine35,0001,344,00038

Bylaws Amendment

A proposed amendment to Section 10, Quorum, of the current Bylaws of the Bayside Neighborhood Association shall be voted on by the Board BNA at the Annual Meeting to be held October 17, 2020.  The proposed amendment is bolded:

10) Quorum 

A majority of the Board of Directors shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, but a lesser number may adjourn any meeting from time to time, and the same may be held as adjourned without further notice. When a quorum is present at any meeting a majority of the members of the Board present shall decide any question brought before such meeting. Ex-officio Board members will not be included in the count when determining the number needed for quorum, nor be counted when determining if a quorum is present. 


Bayside Community Garden Policy Updates 2020

The Bayside Community Garden (BCG) is a project of the Bayside Neighborhood Association (BNA), a 501(c)(3) non profit advocating for the Bayside neighborhood, which is bounded by Marginal Way, Forest Ave, Congress Street, and Franklin Street. The BCG is located at 78 Chestnut Street on a privately owned parcel that has been temporarily made available for the BNA’s use as a community garden.

The following policies have been put in place for the 2020 gardening season. Gardeners must establish the required roles and plans outlined below to be submitted to the BNA board by April 30, 2020.



Bayside Community Gardeners will establish amongst themselves a management structure that must provide three roles (any of which may be held by the same person):

•An operations manager
•An accountant
•A liaison to the BNA Board

The policies in each area are as follows:


One goal of the BCG has been to create a community green space in the midst of a distressed urban neighborhood. This requires that the BCG present an orderly, attractive appearance to gardeners, neighbors, and passersby. To this end the following policies have been developed:

1) The operations manager will oversee the condition of individual plots, according to the following schedule:

June 1 – Plots must be cleared and initial planting completed.
June 15 – Planting for first crops must be complete.
July 1 – A plot must show that it has been consistently maintained.

•If a plot appears abandoned by July 1, the fee will be forfeited and the plot will be offered to the next person on the waitlist at a reduced fee of $20. If there are no takers or the new gardener does not begin planting by July 14 the plot will be cleared and used by the BNA to grow short-season crops for The Locker Project.

•All plots must be consistently maintained for the remainder of the season and closed down appropriately for the off-season.

2) In consultation with the BNA Board a plan must be established detailing where, if anywhere, growth outside of garden plots will be allowed, and what that growth may include for plant material.

•Any such areas must be limited, well maintained, clearly demarcated, and agreed to by the Board.

3) A maintenance schedule for all areas outside the garden plots must be developed, shared with the BNA Board, and adhered to.

•If necessary the BNA board will, at its discretion, correct any overgrowth or plantings outside of approved areas without consultation.

4) The operations manager will ensure that all gardeners understand and agree to these policies.

5) The original mission of creating this garden included increased food security for lower income Bayside residents, especially new Americans. As such:

•Bayside residents will be given first refusal of newly available plots each season, and be put at the top of the waiting list.


1) The garden accountant will track the balance of plot fees and expenditures:

•Prior to the end of each calendar month, submit to the BNA Treasurer one itemized request for any reimbursements
•Submit a receipt for each garden expenditure
•Distribute reimbursements to individual gardeners. After review and approval by the board (first Tuesday of each month), a reimbursement check will be cut payable to the garden accountant, who will then be responsible for distributing funds to those who paid for expenditures.
•Attend BNA Board meetings as requested

2) The budget for garden expenditures will be the total of the garden fees collected for the 2020 season.

•Assuming all plots are claimed at full fee the 2020 budget is 28 plots x $30 = $840 •Plot fees are non-refundable •The board recommends a sliding-scale model for collecting fees based on need, potentially to be covered by more affluent gardeners. •Any fees collected from gardeners taking over forfeited plots or decreased by sliding scale adjustments will change the total budget. •It is up to garden management to decide how to best utilize available funds within the parameters of these policies.

3) Insurance for the 2020 garden year will be covered by an existing grant to the Avesta garden, a separate garden/greenspace activity of the BNA.

Board Liaison

The Board liaison will communicate with the BNA Board of directors in matters regarding the garden. The liaison will:

•Maintain and share with the Board an updated contact list including plot number, physical address, email and phone numbers of all gardeners.
•Submit to the Board a written monthly report on operations which will include the maintenance schedule, activities and issues in the garden
•Attend board meetings or communicate in other ways as requested.

The goal of these policies is to ensure that the garden enhances the Bayside neighborhood and provides a well-managed and inviting greenspace for all who utilize it. Please feel free to contact me at with any questions.

Sarah Michniewicz
President, Bayside Neighborhood Association

The “scattered site” model: a history

NOTE:  The following is excerpted, with light edits, from an email from the author to the Portland City Council and other contributors to the effort to plan a new Homeless Services Center to replace the Oxford Street Shelter.  

Despite multiple explorations on the question of scattered vs. consolidated shelters, all of which have come to the same conclusion, the idea that the City of Portland should pay for multiple small emergency shelters persists.  I haven’t been to every meeting on this topic, but I’ve been to a lot, and my own thinking on this question has evolved as I’ve gained new information.  Here are some highlights:

In 2011, a group of dedicated people, including many who worked for organizations that serve the shelter population, and our current City Manager, met for a year as a Homelessness Prevention Task Force, producing this extensive Strategic Plan in 2012:–End-Homelessness-in-Portland–Nov-2012-Update

It’s a long report, and many people, including myself, relied on news reports and the impressions of experienced stakeholders for a distillation of the key take-aways . One of these take-aways was that scattered, smaller shelters are preferable to a larger shelter.

Despite that impression, in 2015, the City explored teaming up with Preble Street on a consolidated shelter, to be located in Bayside, and the HHS Committee met about it on January 13 and March 10, 2015.  Minutes and packets can be found by going to this page and choosing “View More” on the right and selecting “2015”: 

The packet for the March 13, 2015 meeting has a page titled “Proposed Emergency Shelter Consolidation Study” on city letterhead, followed by a sample budget.  (It’s a long packet; this material is about 3/4 of the way through.)  Note the following:

“The study will also revisit data from Preble Street regarding the estimated cost of scattered site shelters from the Homelessness Task Force. Though this model was described as an alternative to a consolidated shelter, the costs appear to be prohibitively high and thus this model may be unrealistic given the current environment.” 

In the wake of this effort and in consideration of funding cuts and obstruction from the state level, the City Council then formed another task force.  My husband, Sean Kerwin, was a member of that task force, whose work included discussion about scattered vs. consolidated shelter models.  This group also faced the reality that the duplication of facilities, staff, and services makes a scattered approach prohibitively expensive, and the task force set to considering best practices.  This group’s work was then brought to an end, since it was apparent that their work would be duplicating much of what the previous task force had already accomplished, and the newly appointed City Manager, Jon Jennings, brought his knowledge and experience as tri-chair of that first task force. This document illustrates the overlap of the two task forces, and it’s useful to see the list of stakeholders who did not pursue the scattered shelter option as a feasible approach:

Not only that, but the Strategic Plan actually doesn’t have much to say about scattered shelters being preferable.

In that 25 page plan, there are a few phrases like “other specialty shelters” and “other temporary housing” and “continuum of specialty housing” and “Regionalize the solution to homelessness in Greater Portland.”

What it does clearly recommend is: 

“a centralized intake process through which all clients who are homeless would be assessed…for diversion to housing, other specialized shelters or other housing situations…co-locating all service delivery partners within this centralized intake…”

So the “scattered shelters are better than a single large shelter” position is actually an inaccurate oversimplification of the recommendations of the Strategic Plan.  

(Also, a key element in the small-vs.-big narrative is being glossed over, which is the intake process.  A facility which manages the intake process and emergency housing for newly homeless people provides a different function than one which provides short-term housing for people who are up to speed on the “system” (such as it is) for accessing resources.  But both types tend to get lumped together as a “shelter.”  This blog post by City Councilor Belinda Ray clarifies this to an extent, while giving due credit to other service providers who have partnered with the city on specialty projects.)

Moreover, my understanding is that the family shelter here in Bayside will remain open, as will Preble Street’s teen shelter (also in Bayside), Florence House, and Milestone.  So we already have some small specialty shelters. They’re just all within a narrow,  2 mile long area on the peninsula.  If the small shelter zoning passes, other “specialty shelters” and “temporary housing” will be enabled across the city.

Given all of this, it’s time for references to smaller shelters to more accurately reflect the intentions of the Strategic Plan and the widely-recognized reality that it’s prohibitively expensive to accomplish the same goals from multiple locations vs. a single location.  More recently, service providers have also expressed concern about clients “falling through the cracks” in a multi-location model.



[NOTE:  As a site admin, I’m a frequent poster on this web site, but most posts with my byline are on behalf of BNA as a whole, or on behalf of specific individuals as noted.  This one is from my own POV.  – Laura C]

As a resident of Bayside for 10 years, a member of BNA for almost as long, and Vice President of BNA for about 6 years, I’ve spent a fair bit of time at City Hall; in community meetings; in meetings with elected officials and city staff; listening to and in discussion with social services providers from many nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and community initiatives; learning from and working with neighbors who have lived here for decades; and, of course, living in community with people experiencing homelessness.  Does this make me an expert on solutions to homelessness?  No, of course not.  But I know much more than I did 10 years ago, and I wish more people could go through that learning curve more quickly than I did, because that experience counts.

After years of work by a dedicated committee to find a practical solution to Portland’s hopelessly outdated and overwhelmed Oxford Street Shelter, some people without much experience are now calling for…yet…another…task force.  (Sigh.)

We have a task force NOW.  It’s made up of the people who have been showing up for the hard work and hard conversations for years:

  • People who work with homeless and at-risk individuals on a daily basis and know what is needed, in practical terms, to serve this population and empower individuals to take the steps toward long-term positive change.
  • Residents (both long-term and short-term) of Bayside and neighboring communities who have been participating in the public process that has been going on for years, who know what has gone wrong here and are sharing that information in order to get it right.
    • (For those just joining us, it has less to do with “where homeless people belong” and more to do with the density of need and risk, the ratio of long-term residents to transient individuals, a maze of one-way streets, hopelessly inadequate facilities, and a problematic situation that was allowed to fester and grow into a crisis.)
  • People who have devoted their personal time to sit on previous task forces, like this one and this one, and produced work products full of information and recommendations, like this, and who continue to participate in the process.
  • Members of the Health & Human Services and Public Safety Committee and staff of the Health & Human Services department, who have suffered the slings and arrows of public outrage in order to move their work forward, and produced or made visible a significant volume of data, experience, knowledge, and recommendations.
  • Members of the Portland City Council who have attended those Committee meetings, participated in previous iterations of that committee, diligently dug into the work done already, advised on history and policy in order to move the discussion forward, and otherwise invested their own time & energy into understanding the many factors involved in this important decision.

What would a new task force accomplish?  

Aside from interrupting work in progress, delaying practical positive change, and perpetuating a situation many describe as inhumane, what’s wrong with bringing in some “fresh voices?”  What could we expect from such a task force?

  • Unworkable solutions
    Solutions proposed or supported by those in favor of Yet Another Task Force (YATF) include locations in current, active use for incompatible purposes, like fire stations, gyms, and the Portland Expo.  I’ve heard far too many statements that start with “Why don’t they just…” as if there is some simple, obvious solution to the complex and intersecting factors that have led to the current need.
  • Ignorance of the most basic facts and current conditions
    In discussing these issues and this process with those who are new to them, including people pushing for YATF, the number one stumbling block is the need to clarify to people that the Preble Street Resource Center (at 5 Portland Street, and run by one of the largest nonprofit organizations in Maine) IS NOT the Oxford Street Shelter (at 203 Oxford Street, and run by the City of Portland), and/or that these are 2 separate facilities and managing bodies.

    • Another common unproductive conversation is one that starts with the strongly held opinion is that “Housing First is a better solution,” without any knowledge of recent and current Housing First projects, or the fact that most people get into that housing via the emergency shelter.
    • There are real, difficult discussions that need to take place to move this work forward.  We don’t have time to waste on these fundamental misconceptions.
  • Short attention spans
    One group of self-appointed “solution seekers” made a loud & visible fuss early on in the site selection process, and while they promised “Our intent is not to derail the Barron Center proposal and walk away,” they haven’t presented updated information or opportunities to participate since that location was eliminated…such as the Council vote that’s set to take place this month.NIMBY_website
  • Good old run-of-the-mill NIMBYism
    Part of the reason solutions have been long in coming is that there is strong resistance to locating a shelter near…anyone or anything.  No task force is going to change that, and in fact it’s more likely to perpetuate the problem, since the most likely participants of a “diverse, city-wide” resident task force would be residents of the wealthiest residential neighborhoods, who have the time, agency, and motivation to keep such a facility away.  Many people have described this as a “city-wide issue,” but the sad reality is that the vast majority of Portland residents have only gotten involved when a location was proposed nearby.

We don’t need Yet Another Task Force to learn AGAIN what makes these decisions difficult, or to re-hash old arguments and AGAIN come up against the tangible realities that have led to those decisions.  This is, and always has been, a public process; there are more decisions down the road, and anyone with something to offer can contribute to the conversation; that doesn’t require a new task force.

The Portland City Council has the information, resources, and access to expertise and experience that it needs to do its job.  They just have to do it.


Siting the New Homeless Services Center: Info and Resources

The BNA has spent years advocating for improved services for people who are homeless and at risk, and for the safety and civility of our community.  These goals go hand in hand.

The upcoming City Council vote on siting a new Homeless Services Center is the latest step in a long process undertaken by the City of Portland to address the concerns of Baysiders, service providers, and those who need these services.

This change is, quite reasonably, raising concerns across the city, and many people are on a steep learning curve to understanding both the current situation and the plans for change, both of which have been years in the making.  We hope you find the following digest and links helpful.

  • Bayside hosts several shelters and service providers.  One of them is going to close.
    Zoom into this Google map and look around, and you’ll find the City of Portland Oxford Street Shelter, the City of Portland Family Shelter, the Preble Street Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter, the Preble Street Resource Center, the Portland Social Services Department, and numerous other social services provided by organizations such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, and local and regional providers. When the new facility opens, the Oxford Street Shelter is going to close.
  • We have a situation.  We need a system.
    “Everyone agrees the situation needs to change” is a common refrain from all quarters: service providers, politicians, city officials and staff, police officers, healthcare workers, business owners, homeowners, renters, currently homeless people and previously homeless people.  The social ills of Bayside and Portland are not a result of “the shelter” or “the homeless.”  They are the result of a Frankenstein-like hodgepodge of services which have become overwhelmed by the opioid crisis and federal and state budget cuts, and exploited by criminal predators.  Shelter stayers have to walk here and there just to get a meal, through a gauntlet of risks and often with all of their belongings.  A modern, dedicated facility in a new location will provide the resources that homeless people and service providers deserve, and disrupt entrenched patterns and habits that contribute to the undereffective and dangerous situation we have now.
  • The city and many other stakeholders have been working on this for a while.
    Back in 2012, a dedicated task force spent a year focused on homelessness and related issues, producing this Strategic Plan. The plan involves much more than a shelter, but on that topic, the recommendation is “a centralized intake process through which all clients who are homeless would be assessed…for diversion to housing, other specialized shelters or other housing situations…co-locating all service delivery partners within this centralized intake…”  The new service center will benefit from the recommendations in this plan, plus additional extensive research done in the years since.
  • The new facility will be nothing like the old facility.
    The Oxford Street Shelter is basically a multifamily house, on a residential street.  It doesn’t even have its own driveway.  It doesn’t serve food or have laundry facilities. When it opened in 1989, it had 50 shelter beds.  It currently serves around 150 people at a time, in a space that wasn’t designed as a shelter.  The new facility, no matter where it is built, will be designed for its intended use, in accordance with current best practices, and in line with new zoning standards (see next point).
  • The rules for running an emergency shelter have changed.
    In June of 2017, the conditional use standards for emergency shelters were amended. Previously, there were only two conditions: the facility had to comply with the city’s Comprehensive Housing Assistance Plan and be registered with the City. Now, all emergency shelters are required to have a Management Plan that outlines “Management responsibilities; Process for resolving neighborhood concerns; Staffing; Access restrictions; On-site surveillance; Safety measures; Controls for resident behavior and noise levels; and Monitoring Reports.”  Also mandatory are Metro access, on-site support services, space to conduct security searches, bike storage, a screened outdoor area, and laundry, kitchen, and pantry access.
  • Services will be co-located, and transportation will be available.
    The benefits of on-site meals and laundry are obvious.  Plans for the new facility also include “a wide range of services including:  health and mental health care, substance use treatment, housing assistance, peer support, case management, employment assistance, and more.”  But obviously, every provider in the region can’t be co-located, so the new plan includes a shuttle, so people can maintain relationships with providers they know, and existing options like taxi vouchers and a city van will be continued.
  • The city is already taking action.
    In recent years, the city has budgeted for and implemented as many best practices as possible in the current location. Lockers, additional restrooms, and trained security staff have been added in response to neighborhood input. Staying open 24 hours means guests are no longer forced to leave the shelter during the day. Community Policing efforts have grown, including new foot patrol officers. And the Portland Opportunity Crew offers an alternative to panhandling and a path to employment.
  • Siting a facility that helps the homeless is hard.
    Setting aside the challenges related to stigma for a moment, any facility designed for this purpose has physical and logistical requirements that exclude many locations that might otherwise be desirable. Space is needed for beds, lockers, dining, supplies, staff offices, private conversations, computer work, group meetings and activities, and healthy outdoor space. Clear sight lines are important for the security of all. Each additional floor means expenses of stairs and elevators, plus additional logistical concerns and security staff, so a large footprint is required. Any facility serving a large number of people, whether it’s a homeless shelter or a high-end hotel, needs to consider the impact on adjacent communities. Here in Bayside, we see firsthand the results of drawing arbitrary lines for where such a facility “belongs.” Feelings of community or isolation aren’t just driven by geographic location, and all neighborhoods share a responsibility for providing solutions to the complex problems that lead to, and result from, homelessness.  Most importantly, location is only one of many considerations in creating an effective facility for this purpose.
  • This is not “The Fix.”  It’s a step.
    The current crisis didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t be fixed all at once.  Other steps initiated by the Strategic Plan such as the Long Term Stayers Program and new Housing First facilities have already produced positive results.  Future plans include small shelter zoning and licensing, which will enable the creation of short-term housing for smaller numbers of people and specific populations such as veterans, the LGBTQ community, survivors of domestic abuse, etc.  This facility does not prevent ongoing improvements; it enables them.
  • We’re here for you.
    Members of the BNA have been involved with these issues for years.  We don’t claim to be experts, but we’ve lived much of the history and difficulty that has led to this point.  We’ve spent hundreds of hours at City Hall, worked closely with the staff of the Oxford Street Shelter, and have had many hours of conversation with people who will be impacted by this change. The current situation is not sustainable, and we will not stand for it to continue, here or in any other neighborhood. Whatever your interest in this initiative, our door is open, and we encourage robust debate on this very complex topic. Given the urgency of need, it’s critical that discussion is focussed on relevant facts, not rumors or exaggerations, but we respect all points of view.

We look forward to conversations with all concerned parties.  Contact us at or visit us on Facebook.



BNA Barron Center Site Support Letter

From: Sarah Michniewicz <>
Subject: BNA Barron Center Site Support Letter
Date: July 8, 2018 at 2:49:00 PM EDT
To: Belinda Ray <>, Ali Pious <>, Brian Batson <>
Cc: Nicholas Mavodones <>, Justin Costa <>, Cook Kim <>, Jill Duson <>, Spencer Thibodeau <>, Ethan Strimling <>, Jon Jennings <>, Michael Sauschuck <>


July 7, 2018

Health and Human Services and Public Safety Committee
City of Portland
389 Congress Street
Portland, ME  04101

To Councilors Ray, Ali and Batson,

The Bayside Neighborhood Association supports both the proposal to build a new homeless services center, and to locate it on the Barron Center campus.

The BNA advocates for the Bayside neighborhood where the current Oxford Street Shelter, along with a large number of Portland’s essential social service providers, is located.  This facility has been inadequate for many years and is unable to properly carry out the City of Portland’s stated obligation to do the vital work of caring for our most vulnerable citizens.

The current model of serving the homeless with mats to sleep on in one location and food, medical care, and various other necessary supportive services scattered around the general vicinity is outdated, ineffective and inhumane.  Although this system may have been sustainable when the number of clients was much lower and their needs less intense, it has broken down irreparably in the face of economic challenges, the opioid epidemic, reduced access to health care, and numerous other factors.

As demand has outstripped resources, the Bayside neighborhood has disproportionately borne the impacts of hosting a population whose basic needs are often unmet, the opportunists that are drawn here to prey on them, and the behaviors that accompany such stressors.  Building an adequate and humane homeless services center is a vital first step toward achieving the balance to which every citizen and neighborhood in Portland is entitled.

The BNA has invested a great amount of time and energy over the years, and especially in the last few, educating ourselves in order to understand the situation in our neighborhood.  Through emails, phone calls, and meetings, conversations with city staff, social service providers, shelter clients, neighbors, law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, judges, elected officials at the local, state and federal levels of government, and residents and leaders of other neighborhoods, we are intimately involved in seeking solutions.

Our endorsement of the proposed facility at the Barron Center campus is therefore based on our understanding of the careful work and thoughtful consideration that has gone into its selection, and considers the following factors, most of which are mandated by the revised emergency shelter conditional use standards:

• Best practices: Research by councilors and city staff into effective service delivery models; consultation with homeless services providers; surveys of shelter clients; site visits to well-regarded homeless service facilities in Boston; building to accommodate delivery of necessary wrap-around services; clear site lines; on-site meals and laundry; voluntary adoption of multiple best practices at the existing city shelter.

• Accessibility: Proximity to existing transportation infrastructure and bus routes; plans to incorporate a dedicated shuttle in addition to existing modes of transportation provided through taxi vouchers and city vehicles as needed.

• Financial factors: The use of city-owned land; planned space for partner providers to deliver preventative, routine, and follow-up care to reduce the need and cost of emergency services; existing funding for necessary upgrades to sidewalks, lighting, streets and safety features; potential for public/private partnership to finance construction, potential reduction in expenses for city services such as emergency response, policing and street sweeping.

• Established Infrastructure:  Existing kitchen and laundry facilities at the Barron Center; existing water, sewer and utility access; and existing vehicle access to site reduces construction costs.

• Visibility: Prominent location and campus setting promote clients’ sense of social inclusion while providing privacy via on-site services and a screened courtyard.

•Safety: Shielding a vulnerable population from the volatile and unsafe environment that was allowed to grow unchecked in Bayside; providing a stable and private base from which to work on housing, employment and recovery; an invested neighborhood with many “eyes on the street.”

• Neighborhood prioritization: Amended conditional use standards that require a management plan with provisions for working with the surrounding neighborhood; permanent positions for current trained security staff, which have served to improve conditions around the existing shelter; plans to continue the OSS “Hotline” for neighbors to reach out with questions or concerns; street outreach positions to engage potential clients and support the surrounding neighborhood; strong, clear, responsive and adaptable community policing standards; experience with community engagement and collaboration to maintain existing quality of life.  

Please note: Neighborhood engagement and safety is a non-negotiable priority for the BNA, and our continued support is predicated on the robustness and effectiveness of the above measures.   

• Community amenities: Plans for a public health clinic and community policing/police substation to benefit the neighborhood and fill community needs; appropriate architecture to complement existing structures and add value to the neighborhood.

• Equitability: Engaging other areas of the city to support the goals of the new comprehensive plan, our shared interests, and the common good.

•Completing the picture: Asking other communities to participate through reimbursement and by caring for their own population; continuing the exploration of small shelter zoning to augment a coordinated entry model.

While at one point it may have been feasible to correct the deficiencies of the existing city shelter, that opportunity is long past.  The toxic and increasingly dangerous conditions that have been allowed to flourish in Bayside make the city’s social obligations far more difficult and costly than they should be, and normalcy almost impossible for residents, visitors, providers, and social service clients alike.

The current situation is not sustainable, and we will not stand for it to continue, here or in any other neighborhood.

The BNA firmly believes that these conditions are not simply the result of hosting the city’s shelter and so many other social services, but of an entrenched and fearful mindset that has kept better options from being pursued in the past.  Indeed, there has long been an attitude that there are no better options.  The selection of the Barron Center campus site is proof that current city leadership is ready to change that narrative, and is willing and able to act.

We urge you to vote to recommend to the full council that the new homeless services center be sited on the Barron Center campus, and to move forward at the pace that this emergency situation demands.


Sarah Michniewicz
President, Bayside Neighborhood Association